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Monday, May 17, 2010

Thai Red Shirt leader dies

Seh Daeng has died, hospital officials confirm.
Seh Daeng has died, hospital officials confirm.
 
Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- A leader of the anti-government Red Shirts has died after being wounded by a sniper's bullet during protests last week, hospital officials confirmed Monday.

Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol was a renegade general better known as Seh Daeng, which means Red Commander.

Tensions in Bangkok ramped up when Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol was shot and wounded by a sniper's bullet Thursday, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

His death came after four days of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces killed 35 people -- with 11 of those deaths occurring in sporadic fighting throughout Sunday and overnight.

The Erawan Emergency Center also announced Monday that the fatalities include a soldier, the first such death since fighting broke out.

The government declared a holiday Monday and Tuesday "in order to ensure the safety of the public" after the protests paralyzed the city center.

iReport: Are you there? Send your images, video

"It's a situation that doesn't appear to be getting any better," CNN reporter Dan Rivers said as dawn broke Monday.

At least nine international embassies in Bangkok -- including the U.S., British, Belgium, Canadian, German, Japanese, New Zealand, Swedish and Australian embassies -- said they will remain closed until Tuesday at the earliest as a result of the clashes.

Meanwhile, an "intense and fierce" gun battle broke out late Sunday in the city's Lumpini Park, where anti-government protesters have amassed by the thousands, according to Rivers, who was near the scene.

On the scene: Bangkok at boiling point

The battle came hours after the Thai government called on the protesters to stop the violence, but stopped short of agreeing to a demand that the United Nations mediate between the parties.

Rivers said the gunshots sounded like automatic gunfire and were punctuated by explosions. It was unclear, he said, whether the shooting came from the Thai military or the protesters.

The normally bustling city was "deadly quiet" except for the gunfire, Rivers said. "This is not the Bangkok that I have known over the last four years. This has suddenly become a very different and much more scary place."

Also Sunday, some women and children were moved into a Buddhist temple for safety, away from the clashes. A spokesman for the Royal Thai police said a group of doctors were traveling to the temple Monday to provide medical care.

The government extended its state of emergency to five more provinces, bringing the total to 22 provinces along with the Bangkok metropolitan area, spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said in a televised news conference.

The provinces mainly are in north and northeastern Thailand, where the anti-government Red Shirts' strongholds are located. The government has also banned financial transactions with 106 companies and individuals over the protests, Panitan said.

Throughout the day Sunday, black smoke billowed and gunshots rang out in the capital's streets, which have turned into battle zones during the bitter standoff. Nearly 240 people have been injured in the clashes since Thursday, emergency officials said.

Earlier, the government said it would declare a curfew in Bangkok and that no one would be allowed in the streets, but it reversed course several hours later, saying the tense situation was under control.

Minutes later, the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the Red Shirts, said it was willing to negotiate an end to the unrest if troops move out of the area where protesters have amassed by the thousands for weeks.

"We ask the government to ... withdraw troops out of surrounding area," said Natthawut Saikua of the UDD. "We are ready to enter talks immediately by having the United Nations as mediator for this negotiation."

However, the government seemed disinclined to have the United Nations mediate.

Panitan said in the news conference the Thai government has a policy of not allowing organizations to intervene in its internal affairs. The government has its own sovereignty, Panitan said, and can resolve its own problems.

Panitan said the government demands that the protesters stop confronting police. "Stop firing and enter the judicial process," he said.

"The government has been under pressure to be more decisive in its action," a senior Thai government official said. "We have been showing patience and restraint." That, he said, has upset those who want the government to take action against the protesters.

What are the protests about?

The official said the Red Shirts are "armed to the teeth" with weapons including rocket launchers, handguns and gas bombs, and accused protesters of deliberately provoking clashes with soldiers in order to get "pictures of soldiers using violence to undermine the government."

"If the protesters didn't have any arms, there would be no way the soldiers need to be armed," the official said. "... They have been rallying people to burn the town down. They have shown intent in using and causing violence (and a) willingness to follow up with that intent. In that situation government ... has to act."

The hard-core protesters "don't want a peace offer," the official said. "They don't want a peaceful resolution to this."

While CNN reporters in Bangkok have not seen protesters using rocket launchers, it is believed they may have them.

"If the Thai army was shooting indiscriminately on the streets, there would be hundreds dead," the senior government official said. "That is not the case." The official did acknowledge that there is some army shooting, however, because of high tensions.

Col. Sunsern Kaewkamnerd of the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation said soldiers have been authorized to open fire when armed people approach within a certain distance.

If officials impose a curfew, men will need to register before leaving the affected area, authorities said.

Demonstrators who leave before then may be exempt from charges for participating in illegal demonstrations, Sunsern said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the new school term would start May 24 -- a week after the scheduled reopening on Monday -- because of the violence.

During his weekly televised address Saturday, Abhisit warned that the longer the protest continues, the higher the risk for the public.

Abhisit said the government's actions were necessary to prevent Thailand from sinking into lawlessness. He said security forces and his administration are attempting to counter a small group of protesters among the opposition Red Shirts trying to foment civil war.

"The government proposed a reconciliation plan but it was rejected. This benefits no one. It only benefits a small group which wants to harm the country and lead it to civil war. It is unbelievable that they use peoples' lives for political advantage," he said.

Protesters armed with slingshots and firecrackers huddled behind barricades of tires, spikes and poles Sunday. They set tires alight to create smokescreens as bullets flew around them.

Eyewitnesses Saturday recounted stories of unarmed people being picked off. One man was shot and whisked away by emergency crews. People at the scene pointed to a building where they thought snipers were based.

The escalating violence prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a travel warning Saturday advising Americans to defer travel to Bangkok, spokeswoman Cynthia Brown said.

The government said it was forced to take action after demonstrators disregarded an ultimatum by Abhisit to vacate a key intersection by Wednesday.

The United Front for Democracy has been demanding that Abhisit dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call new elections. The Red Shirts support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 bloodless military coup.

But the senior government official accused Thaksin of being behind the unrest.

"This movement is fully financed, organized and paid for by Thaksin," he said. "At the moment, they are holding Thailand (for) ransom."

The official noted there were two pro-Thaksin governments after his ouster before Abhisit took office and insisted the current government is legitimate.

Small, big and giant steps for Pakatan

Anwar to answer APCO-Israel charges on June 8

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will face the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges committee on June 8 over his attack on APCO Worldwide and claims that the government's public relations consultants were also the brains behind Ehud Barak’s One Israel campaign.

DAP Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh said today that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz will be the committee’s second witnesses.

“Well, the discussion was more on the procedure on how do we go about it and prepare on which witnesses to be called. The first witness that will be called will be Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the 8th of June.

“The next day will be (Datuk Seri) Nazri and later we will figure it as we go along. It will depend very much on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s evidence which will indicate the witness he may want to call,” he told reporters in Parliament after the panel's meeting today.

The parliamentary committee had its first meeting today and was chaired by Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia. However the Speaker refused to give any comments because “the investigation was still ongoing.”

The remaining committee members are deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee, Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn (BN-Alor Gajah), Datuk Razali Ibrahim (BN-Muar), Nancy Shukri (BN-Batang Sadong), R. Sivarasa (PKR-Subang) and Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor).

“Yes, he will be called on June 8th during the Parliamentary session. The committee will meet after question hour. I think for the moment that is the position and I think the person should be given the opportunity to call the witnesses if he wants to.

Karpal said that this investigation is very important because Anwar’s political career was at stake.

“In fact, I have told the committee that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should be asked now the witnesses that he wants to be called. But other members feel that let him stand and during the course, if he wants to call witnesses. However that does not mean that he will be allowed to automatically call witnesses that he wants. It will depend on the committee.

“I think it is a very serious sort of matter because his entire political career is at stake because the powers given to the privileges committee is very wide. But then the privileges committee makes recommendations and the house will decide in the end but unfortunately, the House will give it a stamp of approval. It very much depends on what goes on here,” he said.

He also stressed that Anwar must be given the chance to defend himself.

“We're in the committee now. Of course once the recommendation is made to the House, there will be still a debate to accept the recommendations. It's not automatic. The findings made by the committee will of course be bearing on the decisions to be made but ultimately the House decides. The House is the one who in fact referred him to the Committee of Privileges.

“The committee of privileges will now make recommendations. In fact I made it very clear that he should be given every opportunity to clear himself. Guilt must be proven and not only sentenced. The manner in which the motion is worded appears as if it is the sentence in which to sort of decide upon ...is not true. I made it very clear that Anwar ought to be given every opportunity to defend himself,” he said.

Anwar was referred to the Rights and Privileges committee during the last session of the previous parliamentary sitting. - The Malaysian Insider

Industry players blame KSSB for scandal - Free Malaysia Today

By Stephanie Sta Maria
PETALING JAYA: Industry sources have blamed the alleged corruption within Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) on both the Selangor-owned sand-mining company and the state government.
They said that ever since Pakatan took over the Selangor government in 2008, many sand-mining companies, some of which have been in operation for 20 years, have been struggling to survive.
“Things were good during BN's time,” reminisced BK, a former company owner. “It was easy to 'cari makan'. There was no proper system but we knew how to take care of each other via sub-contracting.”
“When Pakatan took over, everything changed. KSSB was granted sole ownership of the industry and all the other sand-mining companies had to depend on it for survival.”
According to BK, many of these sand-mining companies were either forced to cease operations or resort to illegal activities to remain afloat.
He explained that KSSB introduced a new system through which companies were required to submit tenders for mining and purchasing sand.
However, he said that no one knew on what basis the successful companies were awarded the tenders apart from their quoted price.
“Even then, the companies that were awarded these tenders didn't enjoy the same profit margins as they did before,” he said, but declined to elaborate on the exact figures involved.
“KSSB never consulted experienced industry players when it drew up the new system, so can you blame these players for being angry and turning to illegal mining?”
Another industry source called KSSB “a failure” and pinned the blame on racial differences.
“Most of the industry players are Chinese but KSSB is run by Malays,” he said. “They don't understand how the Chinese play the game, hence the breakdown in communication and cooperation between the two parties.”
He also said that while Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim had good intentions in setting up KSSB, it didn't pan out in the way that he had hoped.

EC denies delaying poll result announcement


SIBU: The Election Commission (EC) has denied allegations by DAP that it deliberately delayed announcing the result of the Sibu by-election last night.
Its chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said it was the party's agents who had prevented EC officers from bringing postal ballots which had been counted at the 9th Floor, Wisma Sanyan here, to the vote tallying centre at the Sibu Civic Centre, located just three kilometres away.
As a result, the assistant returning officer in charge of postal votes had to call in the police to bring the situation under control," he told Bernama and RTM (Radio Television Malaysia).

"This is the first time I encountered such an incident, besides my officers constantly being harrased by them (opposition)," he said.

Because of the delay, the result was only able to be announced by Returning Officer Wong See Meng at 11pm, although the EC had expected to release the result by 9pm.

DAP's Wong Ho Leng won the by-election with a majority of 398 votes. He received 18,845 votes to beat Barisan Nasional's Robert Lau Hui Yew who obtained 18,447 votes and Independent candidate Narawi Haron who only managed 232 votes.

There was a total of 2,429 postal votes in this by-election.  

Decorum not observed
Abdul Aziz said he also regretted the attitude of several opposition leaders from outside Sarawak, who according to him, did not observe decorum when they were at the vote tallying centre (Sibu Civic Centre).

"They were trying to show they could do anything they liked without any regard as to the rules to be observed when votes are being tallied.

“This is not good and should not have been displayed to the locals here who have utmost respect for each other irrespective political affiliation," he said.

Overall, Abdul Aziz said this by-election could be described as the best as compared to other by-elections held before this.
- Bernama

Unity lessons from hospital ward

By G Vinod - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT As a retiree with no medical insurance, my father was warded in Kulim General Hospital after complaining of chest pains last week.
Financial constraint being the only problem, it was best that he got himself warded in a government hospital, in order to get medical assistance at a lower price.
The experience of looking after my father, is something I must share with all as it involves ordinary people like you and I.
Ward 8 of Kenanga is a third class room at Kulim Hospital. Normally, the ward accommodates eight patients in the room, with one bathroom and one toilet.
However, it seems the hospital was over-crowded at that time. The usual eight-patient room was congested with 10 patients, with my dad being one of the extra baggage.
Though the H1N1 scare is still active, I noticed some patients were coughing and sneezing away in the congested room with no facial masks on. Even my dad contracted fever and sore throat a day after being admitted there.
At this juncture, I was wondering what if one of them actually had H1N1. If so, all 10 of the patients would have surely contracted the disease by then.
Though putting up a tough face, I can see the nurses are juggling very hard to cater for the needs of an extended number of sick people. Seeing that Ward 8 was over-crowded, I asked one of nurses on how much would it cost to transfer my dad to a second class room. The nurse politely told that even second class rooms are full!
Providing quality healthcare service is something any government in the world should look at seriously. Healthcare is one of the basic necessity for any individual and no taxpayer will ever complain if a huge sum is invested in the sector as long as the money is used to provide nothing but the best of services to those who are sick.
Admitedly, healthcare costs have escalated in the recent years. It is not a Malaysian phenomenon but happening all over the world due to greater technological advancement in the medical sector and rising demand by well-informed patients.
This is reflected in Malaysia when Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak reduced the national healthcare expenditure by 4.8% from RM13.8b to RM13.1b in Budget 2010.
However, investing public healthcare service which has the people's interest at heart is more important than churning out billions to bail out Port Klang Free Zone which was mismanaged in the first place.
Colour blind patients
The entire scenario in the ward is not as deplorable as it may sound. I saw many elderly patients of various races and religious beliefs looking out for one another. The family members of certain patients asked another family to keep an eye on their loved ones when they are not around.
They also happily shared food stuffs such as fruits and biscuits among themselves. I even saw an elderly Indian man cracking jokes with a Malay man. They were definitely colour blind then.
I was amazed by the warm attitudes shown by the patients in the congested room. Despite being in a uncomfortable situation, the patients just made the best out of it.
The elderly patients saw their neighbours as a fellow person in need, regardless of their personal beliefs. This is more heart-warming and believable compared to any of the usual unity slogan we hear during election campaigns or when new leadership takes over the helm.
Perhaps we Malaysians can actually learn a thing or two from the elderly patients of Ward 8.

G Vinod is a Free Malaysia Today team member.

Fancy a job that pays you RM33 a month?

By S Rutra - Free Malaysia Today,

SPECIAL REPORT KUALA KUBU BARU: Palm oil and rubber prices have rocketed, and industry captains are laughing all the way to the bank. Shareholders, some of whom have never been to a plantation, are ecstatic about their expanding bank accounts.
But FMT learnt that the plantation workers do not share the same kind of excitement, and so a team was dispatched to two estates in Hulu Selangor to find out why.
Welcome to the Nigel Gardner and Sungai Jernih plantations, whose inhabitants were recently treated to round-the-clock sumptuous feasts and top-notch entertainment.

No, it was not a reward from their paymasters for their hard work, but rather baits thrown by  political masters to fish for their votes in the recently concluded by-election.

When FMT visisted the estates last week, the fanfare had ended. No more colourful lights, Tamil songs blaring from mammoth speakers or politicians with hampers making a beeline.

But why are these folks not excited about the soaring rubber and palm oil prices? Because some of them still cannot afford a meal in a fast-food restaurant.

Earning RM200 or less
After 53 years of independence, and much economic progress, there are scores of  families dwelling in these faraway plantations, who try to make ends meet on a monthly wage of RM200 or less.

The most shocking case is perhaps N Subramaniam, a father of four. This 42-year-old plantation worker was only left with RM33, following the deductions to his April salary.

Fighting back tears, he said neither him nor his four schoolgoing children have been to a fast-food restaurant, referring to the KFC outlet in the nearby small town of Kerling.

According to his payslip, RM206 was deducted for advance taken, RM50.21 for electricity, RM40 (insurance), RM10 (union), RM24 (EPF) and RM1.75 (Perkeso).

Sometimes, Subramaniam said, his salary “can go up very high” to RM700, depending on the weather and other factors.

“My family is alive because of my wife. She is a factory worker and manages to earn around RM600, but it's hard work. She works for six days, from 7am to 7pm,” he added.

FMT also learnt that the families here were lacking in basic healthcare and proper meals.

M Thangachiamah, 42, a field worker, said she has to support her four children, aged between 13 and 16, on a salary of RM300.

Her husband is a contract worker, who gets paid on a daily basis.

Worried about children's future
Showing FMT her payslip, Thangachiamah said for the 26 working days in April, her salary was RM281.90 after deductions – RM150 for advance, RM10 (union subscription), RM20 (insurance), RM58 (EPF), RM2.75 (Perkeso) and RM6 (temple fund).

With the bulk of the money being spent on her children's education, nothing much is left for food and other expenses.

“School expenses itself is more than RM100 a month. I pay RM70 for my daughter's bus fare because her school is about 30km away.

“I feel extremely sad when I think about my children's future,” she lamented, with tears in her eyes.

Asked if she has considered leaving the estate to seek better employment elsewhere, Tangachiamah said she and her husband never went to secondary school.

“Many people have told me to work someplace else, but how can we? Even for factory workers, they are asking for SRP or SPM these days,” she said.

The pawnshop cycle
Faced with a similar predicament, P Vijayan, 25, is taking care of his elderly parents and his disabled elder brother.

His father, M Pavaday, 66, said his son was forced to quit school at the age of 12 and is therefore unable to secure employment elsewhere.

"I had appoached the welfare department for assistance after a politician visited my house. After looking at my (disabled) son's condition, he said I am entitled to financial aid,” he added.

Pavaday then showed FMT a slip of paper, which he claimed entitled him for assistance.

However, the paper contained only his name and identity card number. There were no particulars of the signatory or any official stamp to indicate that it was issued by the welfare deparment.

K Sinniah, a mandore, agreed that life is hard for those in the estates, and for the “lucky ones”, their one true “good friend” is the local pawnshop.

“It moves in a circle; when times are bad, what little valuables they have are pawned. And when times are good, the jewellery is retrieved... only to be pawned again.

“But these are the lucky ones, some don't have anything to pawn, so they are forced to borrow money from friends, or buy things on credit from the estate sundry shop,” he said.

The more desperate ones, said the 53-year-old mandore, turn to small-time loan sharks.
Even MIC president S Samy Vellu, after visiting the estates in Hulu Selangor, concluded that conditions were better when the colonial masters were running the plantations.

Their local counterparts, he suggested, appear to mete out sub-human treatment to their fellow Malaysian.

In April, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil expressed confidence that her ministry would be able to rescue all hardcore poor families by year-end.

Perhaps, she should start with Hulu Selangor. The clock is ticking, madam.

UMNO’s Vision for Malaysia

As usual in any commentary, one has to deal with what is public and official and what are darker, more uncomfortable visions. It would seem that UMNO’s public vision for Malaysia has been a string of catchy public relations slogans, recently farmed out to be managed by APCO. UMNO’s darker vision however seems to be characterized by a series of loud bluster and threats as well as unseen mysterious actions taken by invisible hands.

By batsman

Comparing the 2, it would seem that the darker vision has more clout and is more effective in expressing itself, both in action and in securing political support. Otherwise the public, less influential vision would not be farmed out to an Israeli-American public relations firm to manage while UMNO concentrates on its darker vision.

How do these then affect UMNO’s government of the country? Do the visions represent some sort of cross purposes that are canceling each other out and somehow managing to turn Malaysia into a stagnating, backsliding, slow moving country?

Take the old slogan of “Learn from the East”. It would seem that even this slogan is not pure and unadulterated. By “East” it would seem that the object of fascination is actually Japan but the slogan fudges this and uses “East” instead. It subsequently loses some of its focus and unity of purpose.

Some of the implications of the slogan have been blindly injected into Malaysia. The famous Japanese tie up between big business and government has been assiduously copied by Malaysian government support for GLCs and other cronies. The sad thing is that such copy cat behaviour is limited to form and superficiality only and the essence or the good of the practice has been left behind in Japan.

What happened then was that Malaysian GLCs and UMNO crony companies have been turned into giant bloated monopolies instead of lean, competitive and world beating businesses.

What was the essence that was missed out and left behind in Japan? This is a difficult and complex area. If it were easy, it would not have been left out in the 1st place. But still, it is not an excuse for failure since the cost of failure is Malaysia’s future.

We already have experience with failure. When democratic forms and structures were imported from England, the essence of democracy was left out and the cost of this failure is what we suffer today.

When Sarawak and Sabah joined Malaysia, it was expected that they be given greater autonomy than the rest of the peninsula, but failure to respect this has resulted in 2 of Sarawak’s oil parcels being given away to Brunei without any consultation at all and Filipino immigrants imported into Sabah just to change the social and voter characteristics of the state. It would seem that what is essential can be something as simple as respect; and failure to respect the essence can lead to disastrous consequences.

What were once 2 rich and self-respecting states with some form of autonomous control over their future have now been turned into basket cases with no control whatsoever – the rich and connected becoming indecently richer while the rest of the citizenry become marginalized, isolated and impoverished with unemployment, evil and sin stalking the land like vengeful ghosts.

Could this similar fate also happen to the peninsula under UMNO rule? Let’s check out “Learn from the East” to get a better idea.

In Japan, the tie-up between big business and government was purely focused on reclaiming Japan’s place as a leading manufacturing and industrial powerhouse. This focus bordered on obsession. There were no distractions. Even then, events unfolded to the extent that corruption extended its tentacles even here.

Unfortunately, the tie-up between GLCs, cronies and government in Malaysia not only was riddled with favouritism and cronyism of selfish individuals from the start, the focus was completely distracted by social re-engineering concerns. The objective of excellence and being world beaters lost its aim. Secondary as well as personal objectives became paramount. With such a situation, is it not obvious that any shots fired were off target and wasted if not actually dangerous to the citizens, any hits being purely random and accidental?

So it is that “Learn from the East” became something we could not do well and was dropped quietly. Hopefully it will not be retained long enough to learn from China’s authoritarian, communist and brutal approach to things. There are already inklings and subsequent worries that this may be the case.

In much the same vein, UMNO likes to talk about the social contract. However, open mindedness if employed for even a fraction of a second will make one realize that independence was fought not for social re-engineering concerns, but to free the country to develop and become prosperous – not enslaved to colonial masters.

The social contract that UMNO likes to talk about was therefore only a secondary objective, although still a valid one. There is no cake to divide fairly if no one bothers to bake the cake and we cannot live on oil money forever. Again it was a case of a secondary objective surmounting the primary one. The aim and focus was lost in the petty jealousies, hate and envy.

In business, to lose one’s objectives and focus is a death sentence. High flying jet set CEOs who take their businesses and expand/diversify them without regard to the objectives, focus and inherent skills of the businesses are doomed to fall flat down to earth again. This lesson is driven home again and again in every recession.

Unfortunately, our business friendly politicians are unable to learn from business lessons. No doubt, a country is not a business and is much more complex. For one thing, there is an even more important need for checks and balances. Social re-engineering is a form of checks and balances. Sadly, if taken over the limit and when used by power hungry politicians to seize power in a coup, it supplants the original objective of achieving excellence and becoming world beaters.

When everything else is subordinate to social-re-engineering concerns, the country turns inward on itself and loses it competitive edge. Income reduces and there is no money to bake the proverbial cake. Worse still, corruption, cronyism and abuse of power are able to hitch a ride on the back of fanatical social re-engineering concerns. Evil and sin stalk the land. Murder, manipulation of elections and police violence become commonplace.

A leader who loses his vision or suffers proven wrong visions is no longer fit to lead. Sadly, the rakyat are only slowly beginning to gain its own visions for the future. So it becomes a race between UMNO politicians and the rakyat to see who stumbles first.

What of the opposition? UMNO likes to say it is a bloc comprising parties with diametrically opposite platforms and visions. Therefore UMNO argues that the PR will never succeed. It looks as if its cross purposes is even more serious than UMNO’s.

However, the fact that the coalition exists and that it has a common platform means that the individual parties are willing to subordinate their individual visions to be secondary to the vision of the common platform. It is only when the individual parties try to supplant the common platform with their own platforms that secondary visions start to cloud the primary one and Malaysia stares complete failure in the face again. In the meantime, the visions of the individual parties can act as checks and balances on obsession in pushing for excellence and competition at the cost of marginalization, racism, corruption, immorality and sin.

Will it happen? What do you think?

The BN Mentality

The Tourism Ministry today says that it will work closely with local and foreign tour agencies to lure tourists from Thailand across the border into Malaysia. What about the people who were wounded?

By Hakim Joe

Bangkok is fast becoming a battle ground. People are dying. Businesses are closed. Live bullets are flying everywhere. The protestors are responding with petrol bombs.

The Thai army is shooting at the Thai people. The Generals are identifying these protestors as terrorists and have vowed to eliminate them. Snipers are employed to kill the Red Shirt leaders. The non-elected Abhisit administration has just reneged on a promise to hold elections this year.

And what does the Government of Malaysia do to alleviate the situation. Absolutely nothing except for one ministry. The Tourism Ministry today says that it will work closely with local and foreign tour agencies to lure tourists from Thailand across the border into Malaysia.

What about the people who were wounded? I mean, this is our neighbors, right? What about the people who were shot and killed? Shouldn’t good neighbors be concerned about the welfare of its closest neighbors?

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen couldn’t care less or seem not to care by her actions alone. If Najib had any sense, he would have censured the wayward minister for such inconsiderate actions. This is not the time to attempt to profit from someone else’s misfortunes. But then again, why should Najib care about the Thais when he couldn’t care less about the minorities here on his doorstep?

That is what you get for as asking stupid questions.

And then there is the DAP win in a seemingly impenetrable BN fortress to worry about now. Alas, a larger pool of postal votes could have swung things around. Time to plan for a military camp in Sibu.

Perkasa again questions Chinese support for BN

Malay rights group Perkasa has again questioned Chinese support for Barisan Nasional (BN), noting that the lack of support in Sibu was similar to the Hulu Selangor vote last month.
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali claimed Chinese voters in Sibu did not appreciate the promises and financial aid pledges made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the eight-day campaign.
“The Chinese community openly supported DAP’s policies. The Chinese voters did not appreciate what the prime minister gave to them,” he said, adding Najib had supported the community’s vernacular school system.
The independent Pasir Mas MP has been at the forefront of Malay rights issues and has made Perkasa the country’s largest Malay non-governmental organisation.
“Chinese voters want the Chinese way although Bumiputeras have to accept the compromise made by BN to fulfil their needs,” Ibrahim added when commenting on BN’s defeat.
The Sibu federal seat is pre-dominantly Chinese and most of whom voted for DAP, which was contesting its first by-election since Election 2008.
The Chinese had also voted against the BN in Hulu Selangor three weeks ago although the ruling federal coalition still won the Parliamentary seat.
In view of the trend, Perkasa wanted BN to review financial aid and development projects for the Chinese community but BN and Umno leaders have dismissed such a move.

Read more here.
Malay rights group Perkasa has again questioned Chinese support for Barisan Nasional (BN), noting that the lack of support in Sibu was similar to the Hulu Selangor vote last month.
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali claimed Chinese voters in Sibu did not appreciate the promises and financial aid pledges made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the eight-day campaign.
“The Chinese community openly supported DAP’s policies. The Chinese voters did not appreciate what the prime minister gave to them,” he said, adding Najib had supported the community’s vernacular school system.
The independent Pasir Mas MP has been at the forefront of Malay rights issues and has made Perkasa the country’s largest Malay non-governmental organisation.
“Chinese voters want the Chinese way although Bumiputeras have to accept the compromise made by BN to fulfil their needs,” Ibrahim added when commenting on BN’s defeat.
The Sibu federal seat is pre-dominantly Chinese and most of whom voted for DAP, which was contesting its first by-election since Election 2008.
The Chinese had also voted against the BN in Hulu Selangor three weeks ago although the ruling federal coalition still won the Parliamentary seat.
In view of the trend, Perkasa wanted BN to review financial aid and development projects for the Chinese community but BN and Umno leaders have dismissed such a move.

Read more here.

Third vote conundrum

thenutgraph.com
THE Penang government has started removing hurdles in the way of restoring local council elections, and its next stop could be the Federal Court.
Lawyers consulted by the state assert that local polls are possible because:
The federal law which governs the polls was never abolished. This law is the Local Government Elections Act (LGEA) 1960, which the Election Commission (EC) claims has been repealed; and,
Provisions in a newer law, the Local Government Act (LGA) 1976 which "replaced" the LGEA and outlaws local council elections, are unconstitutional. The provision concerned is Section 15(1) which states that other laws allowing the third vote shall cease to have effect.
Who is correct? Lawyers acting for the state, or the EC which says it cannot legally hold the third vote?
One option before the Penang executive council (exco) now is to get a Federal Court order declaring the LGEA valid, and Section 15(1) of the LGA void.
The exco is in the midst of deciding whether going to the Federal Court is the best path to take. The possibility that the court will reject its request is all too real, given its track record in deciding cases with political implications. Does Penang have other options?
A matter of interpretation?

Yeo Yang Poh
The Penang government's legal advisory committee appointed to study local council elections believes that the LGEA provisions are still alive. This is because the Act was revised in 1991, says former Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh, who heads the committee. Law revisions are done by the Commissioner of Law Revision.
The LGEA was revised according to the Revisions of Law Act 1968, where Section 10(2) states: "On and after the date from which the revised law comes into force, such revised law shall be deemed to be and shall be without any question whatsoever in all courts and for all purposes whatsoever the sole and only proper law in respect of matters included therein and in force on that date."
"The wording is clear to me, it's not even an arguable point, that the LGEA is still a proper law governing local elections," Yeo tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.
As to the LGA, Yeo interprets Section 15(1) of this Act as unconstitutional because it contradicts Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution. This article allows states to request the EC to conduct elections other than state or parliamentary polls.
Further, the LGA has another section, 1(4), which allows states to exempt themselves from restrictions within the same Act regarding local polls.
Yeo says instead of going to court directly, another option is to write to the federal government and the EC for their position on the LGEA's revision in 1991. Whether this Act is still valid, or whether it has been repealed as the EC claims, hinges on how the Revisions of Law Act is understood.
"The state could ask the EC whether it agrees with this view before proceeding to the Federal Court. However, the reality is that we expect the government's answer to be 'no'," he adds.
EC chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof says he was advised by the Attorney-General's Chambers that the LGEA is a repealed law. "As far as the AG's advice goes, we are to look to the newer law (LGA) which states that councillors are to be appointed," he tells The Nut Graph by phone.
Mock or not?
Going to court may or may not be futile, but that's where the matter would probably wind up eventually. The EC could keep on rejecting requests to conduct local polls, and there would be little states could do since the commission is the only body constitutionally empowered to conduct elections. A court ruling that upholds the LGEA's validity is seen as the only way to compel the commission.
aerial view of  penang
Some activists suggest Penang should attempt a mock election (© Goh PS | Wiki Commons)


That aside, democracy activists feel Penang should attempt a mock election. Suaram Penang Coordinator Ong Jing Cheng tells The Nut Graph the state could choose councillors from among the election winners, so as not to flout the law requiring councillors to be appointed.
"Perak village heads were elected under the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government, so a similar exercise can be done in Penang," Ong says in a phone interview.
Whether mock elections held by the state are legal since only the EC is empowered to conduct voting, Ong feels it is more necessary for PR to prove its sincerity about democratic reforms.
"Whether the legality of a mock election is questioned, it is a good exercise for PR if they one day take over the federal government. They can convince people that they have experience in conducting local elections.
"We have suggested before that the Penang government do studies, costing, and public education to prepare for a mock poll, but this has not been taken up," Ong says.
Walking the talk
Lim Guan Eng (file pic)
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng prefers testing the Federal Court on this issue. "The state cannot go ahead on its own or draw up its own rules on conducting local government elections. It has to be the EC, [and should they refuse] that is why we need a court declaration.
"[But] it has to be a collective decision [by the exco]. When we decide, we must do so in the interest of the state and so that it won't affect the authority of the local councils. We also have to think this through carefully as we don't want our decision to be disputed and ultimately rejected by the court, making all our efforts in time and money in vain," Lim tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.
The realpolitik of having local council polls is a consideration, too. Among the PR parties, DAP has been the most strident in calling for the third vote. Objections have come mostly from quarters in PAS concerned about the loss of Malay Malaysian strength in urban local councils.
However, Lim dismisses such fears. "[Local councils] are subsets of all state seats within parliamentary seats. In Penang, the two councils, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang and Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Prai, are inclusive of all the state seats within. So [there] will be [representation] of the [Malay Malaysian] population," he says.
The state government's loss of control over local councils is also a reality that has to be dealt with, Lim adds. "If we want to cling to power, why should we agree to hold local government elections? We might as well retain our complete monopoly so that only PR representatives are appointed. This is a sacrifice in authority and power that we are making in the larger interest of democracy."
For civil rights activists like Suaram, such assurances are not enough. "It's for PR to convince the people that they are sincere. We want to see how far the state government will go to empower people," says Ong.
And so, between the law, activism and political reality, Penang under PR must decide how best to fulfil its 2008 election promise within the limits placed by federal government.

Syabas Rakyat Sibu

Syabas rakyat Sibu! Terima kasih saya ucapkan kerana memilih Sdr Wong Ho Leng sebagai Ahli Parlimen Sibu yang baru, menggantikan mendiang Robert Lau Hoi Chew. Rakyat Sibu membuktikan kepada kita semua bahawa kuasa rakyat, kuasa keramat. Mereka menzahirkan kepada kita semua, misi Menyelamatkan Malaysia dari segala kebejatan merupakan matlamat utama ketimbang tunduk menyerah kepada sogokan pimpinan Umno-Bn.

Syabas dan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan buat semua penggerak dan aktivis Pakatan Rakyat. Sekali lagi anda perlihatkan kekuatan yang mengagumkan walau terpaksa berhadapan dengan jentera lawan yang dilengkapi wang ringgit serta dokongan aparat-aparat lainnya. Ternyata keikhlasan, kecekalan dan kegigihan membuahkan hasil bermakna, malah memberi pelajaran berguna kepada Pakatan Rakyat buat merenung erti semangat perjuangan yang selama ini menjadi pemangkin kepada Agenda Selamatkan Malaysia.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

Right to information

by Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (May 16, 2010): A coalition of NGOs for good governance has begun a campaign to get the Penang government to set up a legal framework for public access to official government information.

The Coalition for Good Governance Penang made a resolution to get the state government to introduce a ‘Right to Information Bill’.

It is asking for the bill to be prepared for tabling and approval at the state assembly as soon as possible.

The resolution was made at the end of a public forum on ‘Why a Freedom Of Information Act?’ organised by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Sembang-Sembang Forum at the Caring Society Complex here yesterday.
Suaram is acting as the secretariat for the CGGP.

According to the resolution, the right to information had still not been recognised at many levels of the state government, including the state executive council, municipal councils, state corporations and other bodies.

“Such denial of information has hindered the communities' participation in the democratic decision-making processes that directly affect these communities,” it said.

It pointed that such a bill was necessary to help nurture a democratic process based on principles of good governance that is inclusive, transparent and accountable so as to ensure the proper functioning of an open society.

Latheefa Koya, a councillor with the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) , who spoke at the forum, said the Selangor government was considering the formation of an independent commission to oversee public access to official information.

She said the move may entail the appointment of “information officers” in various state bodies and municipal councils.

It would also look into the possibility of setting up a time frame of 30 days for relevant agencies to respond to applications for information, and 48 hours for urgent cases.

She, however, said that state and the councils could not control the release of information that are restricted by federal legislations like the Internal Security Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman George Aeria spoke of how the association faced obstacles in getting information on controversial hill-slope projects and other contentious issues.

He said for example that the MPPP took three months to hand over to the association a copy of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report they had requested for a condominium that is being built on a slope.

Penang Island municipal councillor Lim Kah Cheng noted that the Local Government Act 1976 requires all local government meetings to be open to the public, and for ratepayers to have access to minutes of these meetings.-- theSun

Sibu miracle: The morning after - Anil Netto

All right folks, after a good night’s sleep, I presume, let’s share some thoughts on the implications of the results.
It’s going to be a lot harder for the BN to use vote-buying tactics to win voters’ support especially in urban areas in future by-elections. Sibu voters have taught the BN a bitter lesson.
Places of worship, religious institutions and independent schools should not accept grants from the government during election campaigns. This sets a good example for their followers and young minds and teaches them about the ethics of public life and electoral practices. Read Goh Keat Peng’s excellent piece ‘We don’t take such money‘. Mr Goh, a prominent Christian figure who attends a Methodist Church, gives us much food for thought: “I respectfully appeal to the churches directly involved in this episode (of accepting grants): If it isn’t true and it didn’t happen, then please say so. If it is true, offered and received, give it all back.
The result is a wake up call for Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his family’s wide-ranging involvement in the state’s economy along with the cronies. Enough of the exploitation of people and natural resources.
The Sibu result is a psychological boost for the opposition and could yet have an impact on the state polls, though it is too early to say that the political tsunami in the peninsula has spread to Sarawak and Sabah.
What is certain is that Sarawakians in urban areas are now more exposed to independent views over the email and Internet, via mobile phones/SMS and through personal contacts elsewhere, and they are now more aware of critical national issues including larger issues of human dignity and justice.
More seats – how many it’s hard to say – are likely to fall to opposition hands in the coming state elections. But if Pakatan wants to make further headway in Sarawak, it will have to find a way to penetrate the interior areas and longhouses.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister George Chan says that among the key issues from the peninsula that swayed the election were the Allah controversy and the Malay Bible issue. But George, these issues will not go away – and they will have an impact on Sarawak Christians – unless they are fairly and satisfactorily resolved.  They are always a convenient way of dismissing the other pressing issues in Sarawak including the excessive exploitation of natural resources, the loss of native customary land, and the general oppression faced by the people.
What do you think?

Fierce gun battle breaks out in Bangkok



Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- An "intense and fierce" gun battle broke out Sunday night in Bangkok's Lumpini Park, where anti-government protesters have amassed by the thousands.

The battle came hours after the Thai government called on the protesters to stop the violence, but stopped short of agreeing to a demand that the United Nations mediate between the parties.

CNN's Dan Rivers said the gunshots sounded like automatic gunfire and were punctuated by explosions. It was unclear, he said, whether the shooting came from the Thai military or the protesters.

The normally bustling city was "deadly quiet" except for the gunfire, Rivers said. "This is not the Bangkok that I have known over the last four years. This has suddenly become a very different and much more scary place."

iReport: Are you there? Send your images, video

The government on Sunday extended its state of emergency to five more provinces, bringing the total to 22 provinces along with the Bangkok metropolitan area, spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said in a televised news conference.

The provinces are mainly in northern and northeastern Thailand, where the anti-government Red Shirts' strongholds are located. The government has also banned financial transactions with 106 companies and individuals over the protests, Panitan said. In addition, the government has declared holidays for May 17 and 18 in Bangkok.

Throughout the day, black smoke billowed and gunshots rang out in the capital's streets, which have turned into battle zones during the bitter standoff. The clashes have claimed the lives of at least 31 people since Thursday, including seven people killed Sunday, hospital officials said. More than 261 have been injured.

On the scene: Bangkok at boiling point

Earlier, the government said it would declare a curfew in Bangkok and that no one would be allowed in the streets, but it reversed course several hours later, saying the tense situation was under control.

Minutes later, the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, or UDD, also known as the Red Shirts, said it was willing to negotiate an end to the unrest if troops move out of the area where protesters have amassed by the thousands for weeks.

"We ask the government to ... withdraw troops out of surrounding area," said Natthawut Saikua of the UDD. "We are ready to enter talks immediately by having the United Nations as mediator for this negotiation."

However, the government seemed disinclined to have the United Nations mediate.

Panitan said in the news conference the Thai government has a policy of not allowing organizations to intervene in its internal affairs. The government has its own sovereignty, Panitan said, and can resolve its own problems.

Panitan said the government demands that the protesters stop confronting police. "Stop firing and enter the judicial process," he said.

"The government has been under pressure to be more decisive in its action," a senior Thai government official told CNN. "We have been showing patience and restraint." That, he said, has upset those who want the government to take action against the protesters.

What are the protests about?

The official said the Red Shirts are "armed to the teeth" with weapons -- including rocket launchers, handguns and gas bombs -- and accused protesters of deliberately provoking clashes with soldiers in order to get "pictures of soldiers using violence to undermine the government."

"If the protesters didn't have any arms, there would be no way the soldiers need to be armed," the official said. "... They have been rallying people to burn the town down. They have shown intent in using and causing violence [and a] willingness to follow up with that intent. In that situation government ... has to act."

The hard-core protesters "don't want a peace offer," the official said. "They don't want a peaceful resolution to this."

While CNN reporters in Bangkok have not seen protesters using rocket launchers, it is believed they may have them.

"If the Thai army was shooting indiscriminately on the streets, there would be hundreds dead," the senior government official said. "That is not the case." The official did acknowledge that there is some army shooting, however, because of high tensions.

Col. Sunsern Kaewkamnerd of the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation said soldiers have been authorized to open fire when armed people approach within a certain distance.

If officials impose a curfew, men will need to register before leaving the affected area, authorities said.

Demonstrators who leave before then may be exempt from charges for participating in illegal demonstrations, Sunsern said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the new school term would start May 24 -- a week after the scheduled reopening on Monday -- because of the violence.

During his weekly televised address Saturday, Abhisit warned that the longer the protest continues, the higher the risk for the public.

Abhisit said the government's actions were necessary to prevent Thailand from sinking into lawlessness. He said security forces and his administration are attempting to counter a small group of protesters among the opposition Red Shirts trying to foment civil war.

"The government proposed a reconciliation plan but it was rejected. This benefits no one. It only benefits a small group which wants to harm the country and lead it to civil war. It is unbelievable that they use people's lives for political advantage," he said.

Protesters armed with slingshots and firecrackers huddled behind barricades of tires, spikes and poles Sunday. They set tires alight to create smokescreens as bullets flew around them.

Eyewitnesses Saturday recounted stories of unarmed people being picked off. One man was shot and whisked away by emergency crews. People at the scene pointed to a building where they thought snipers were based.

The escalating violence prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a travel warning Saturday advising Americans to defer travel to Bangkok, spokeswoman Cynthia Brown said.

The Thai government said it was forced to take action after demonstrators disregarded an ultimatum by Abhisit to vacate a key intersection by Wednesday.

The United Front for Democracy has been demanding that Abhisit dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call new elections. The Red Shirts support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 bloodless military coup.

The senior government official accused Thaksin of being behind the unrest.

"This movement is fully financed, organized and paid for by Thaksin," he said. "At the moment, they are holding Thailand [for] ransom."

The official noted there were two pro-Thaksin governments after his ouster before Abhisit took office, and insisted the current government is legitimate.

Tensions ramped up when Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol -- a renegade general better known as Seh Daeng, which means Red Commander -- was shot and wounded by a sniper's bullet Thursday, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

Press Freedom flashmob baffles LRT commuters

Poor Indian earn as low as RM 260.00 per month. Indonesian maid’s minimum salary is RM 450.00per month.

 poor men For the Indonesia maids they have the whole Indonesian government machinery to ensure their minimum wages.
For the Bangladeshi’s and other nationalities they have the local NGOs’ and Tenaganita which receives millions of Ringgit from overseas funders to take care of the foreign workers in Malaysia.
But who speaks for minimum wages for the Indians?
PKR? DAP? PAS? NGOs’? Bar Council? Malaysian civil society? Indian elite? Bloggers? mainstream media? Malaysiakini.com? Raja Petra?
Karnnai Nithi @ Compassionate Justice

13-05-2010 - STMT - Poor
 Indian earn

Indian girl shaved bold (partly) by headmaster of Rawang Malay school (SH 13/5/10 page N 25)


UMNO42_091107_MUHYIDDIN This is the racist UMNO system we are living in and fighting against.
Hundreds if not thousands of acts off racism of this nature and others are inflicted on the Indians on a day to day basis by the 1,016,799 racist Biro tatanegara graduates(UM Buletin 21/6/09 at page 19)
This is the racist UMNO system which we are fighting to end.
But to divert attention away from this real life and serious racism even the PKR Supremo, NGOs’, P.R,Malaysiakini.com, Bloggers etc will say that this is the Hindraf racist agenda.
Karnnai Nithi @ Compassionate Justice
13-05-2010 - STMT
 - Indian girl shaved bold

DAP wins Sibu by 398 votes

By Pushparani Thilaganathan and B Nantha Kumar - Free Malaysia Today

UPDATED 11.45PM DAP's Wong Ho Leng today wrestled the Sibu parliamentary seat from Barisan Nasional with a wafer-thin majority of 398 votes, announced Returning Officer Wong See Meng at about 11pm.

Wong garnered 18,845 votes while his rival Robert Lau Hui Yew from BN managed to get 18,447 votes and independent Narawi Haron got only 234 votes to lose his deposit.

The inclusion of the postal votes has drastically reduced DAP's margin which at one point stood at almost 2,500 votes. The results from the postal votes hugely favoured BN – 2,323 out of 2,537.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guang Eng, when asked to comment on the results, said: "Sibu wants change, they have voted for change, they want to work with their partners in Peninsular."

“BN has no more fixed deposits anyway.... it is finished. Pakatan needed this win and it is ours,” he added.

In the 2008 general election, the late Robert Lau from BN retained the Sibu seat with a 3,549-vote majority to beat Wong and another PKR candidate.

While this win does not alter the balance of power in Parliament, it nevertheless shows that Pakatan Rakyat is gaining a foothold in Sarawak which for decades had been a fixed deposit for BN.

This win will also give Pakatan a much-needed boost in facing BN in the Sarawak state elections which must be held by next year.

As for BN, this defeat today will bring the coalition back to the drawing board as it went into the contest as the overwhelming favourite to retain the seat. The by-election today also came just after BN had won the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat from PKR last month.

The voters' rejection of the BN candidate came despite BN chairperson and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's two trips to Sibu - a two-day visit in the middle of the week and a last-minute visit yesterday - where he had pledged almost RM20 million for the consitutency.

A conspiracy in place?

Meanwhile FMT also learnt that BN leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, had left the counting centre long before the results were announced.

The delay in the Election Commission in announcing the results also caused some concern for the DAP leaders.

The EC was to have announced the results by 9pm but it only came two hours later, due to some problems relating to the validity of witnesses' signature for postal votes

“Postal ballot counting started at 5.30pm and finished at 8.30pm. Why more than hour long delay in holding up the announcement of results,” asked DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang in his twitter entry.

“Up to some tricks?” he further queried.

In another twitter entry, Kit Sing asked if there was an attempt being undertaken to "steal" the Sibu by-election from the people of Sibu.

However after the results were officially announced, Kit Siang paid tribute to the “great people of Sibu”. He said they have “written history and created the Sibu Miracle”. The Sibu seat is DAP's second parliamentary seat in Sarawak, following Bandar Kuching.

A Sibu miracle

Earlier at about 6.15pm, unofficial vote tallies indicated that DAP was fighting back in reversing an early lead taken by the BN.

Loud cheers of joy broke out at the DAP operations room as vote counts from ballot boxes in the Chinese majority Pelawan area were being counted, giving a clear indication that DAP's Wong was in the lead over BN's Robert Lau Hui Yew.

Following this latest vote count, Kit Sing said this in his twitter message: “From incoming results, hopes of a Sibu miracle more than alive despite initial reverses. Ho Leng may still be elected Sibu MP.”

The mood earlier was however gloomy as unofficial tallies put BN ahead of DAP by 1,985 votes based on 19 channels, or roughly 12 percent of votes counted.

The polling process for the by-election ended at 5pm today. Out of the 45 polling centres opened to facilitate the polling process, 10 closed at 1pm, five at 2pm, six at 3pm, two at 4pm and the remaining 22 at 5pm.

The vote counting process is currently underway and the tallying will be done at the Sibu Civic Centre here. The result is expected to be known by 10pm.

Voter turnout revised

The Election Commission also revised its voter turnout statistics to 70 percent. Earlier at the closing of the polls, EC chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the voter turnout was only 59.86 percent - which fell lower than the 67 percent recorded in the 2008 general election. The EC had expected a 80 percent turnout.

Meanwhile, Sibu police chief ACP Shafie Ismail said polling went smoothly except for a minor incidents of heckling among supporters of the contesting parties.

A total of 52,158 voters were eligible to to cast their votes to elect their new member of parliament at 45 polling stations with 110 streams at 39 schools, two kindergartens, a training centre, a longhouse, a public library and a public recreational centre.

Another 2,537 postal voters, comprising 1,910 military and 627 police personnel, had cast their ballots on Thursday and Friday.

The fair weather in the morning augured well for a smooth polling process as voters began queuing up even before the centres were opened to choose either the Barisan Nasional (BN)'s Robert Lau Hui Yew, DAP's Bukit Assek state assemblyman, Wong Ho Leng, or independent Narawi Haron.

Ten polling centres will close at 1pm, five at 2pm, six at 3pm, two at 4pm and 22 at 5pm.

Hui Yew, accompanied by his wife, Lucinda Lau Lin, cast his vote at the SMK Rosli Dhoby polling centre here while Wong and his wife Irene Chong cast theirs at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Goung Ann here. Hui Yew is a registered voter in the Lanang parliamentary constituency.
Narawi cast his vote at SMK Sungai Merah at about 10am.

The by-election is expected to be a close race after eight days of intense campaigning, which saw BN big guns stumping around the constituency to build up support.

Wong's sweet victory thanks to Najib's missed visit

By Puspharani Thilaganathan - Free Malaysia Today

SIBU: DAP’s newest parliamentarian Wong Ho Leng is euphoric. He has finally seen his dream!
As at 11pm, May 16, 2010, fifty-one year old Wong had officially slayed the mighty BN dragon and redeemed DAP’s place in Sibu’s history.

“It has come after 24 years…it has been a long wait for DAP and me…sweetest victory,” he said with contentment in his voice.

On Friday night, amidst the sweltering heat, he told FMT he could “now see the dream ... it's different this time, very different. I can feel the mood... I can see the dream”.

This is Wong’s fourth attempt at winning the parliamentary seat.

Most punters had reduced his odds after Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s whirlwind visit yesterday in a last ditch attempt to secure a thumping majority for BN through candidate Robert Lau Hui Yew.

But Wong, who is also Bukit Assek assemblymen, has survived the ‘political death’ associated with the number ‘4’, in the Chinese culture.

And frankly, he has Najib to thank.

Najib missed his date
Until late yesterday, intelligence sources had predicted a 65% voter support from the Malay-Melanau community.

This figure was supposed to have increased with Najib's meet-the people session in Kampung Hilir in Nangka last night.

But Najib did not turn up in Kampung Hilir, and as the old saying goes ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'.

Some 100 women, old and young, some carrying children waited patiently for him, ecstatic at the prospect for meeting their premier.

Najib did not turn up and to quote a disappointed Puan Zainab, “he does not care… he could have walked … we are a kampung”.  

Despite having an 80-year history, Kampung Hilir has never been visited by a prime minister.

Najib has visited Sibu three times since the announcement of the by-elections and his focus has always been on swinging in the Chinese votes. He had never once stepped foot in the Malay-Melanau locality which fringes the Sibu city.

Perhaps yesterday’s dismissal of the community which eagerly awaited four hours for his visit was the final straw.

Low Malay-Melanau turnout
The voter turnout today from the Malay-Melanau community in the Nangka constituency was low, according to a PAS campaigner who has been working with the community for the last two weeks.

According to her it was lower than in 2008 and it was as if they did not care.

“We know they were very unhappy with the way Najib dismissed them.. they (the women) had waited for a long time and he humiliated them by not turning up.

“He has visited Sibu three times and has met with the Chinese community and given money to the churches. But gave the Malays nothing,” she said.

Incidently just over 50 percent of Sibu's voters are women and this includes the women in Kampung Hilir.

Kapar MP gets red paint warning

KLANG: Kapar member of parliament S Manikavasagam is seeing 'red' over his allegations of graft pertaining to sand mining in Selangor.

Early today, his two-storey house at Jalan Jelutong KU/8 in Pekan Meru here was found splashed with red paint, including the main gate, pillars and floor of the car porch.

Also spattered with the paint were his Proton Perdana and Toyota Estima Multi-Purpose Vehicle which were parked in the porch.

Manikavasagam also found a threatening note written on A4-sized paper, warning him to stay out of sand mining issues in the state.

He told reporters that he only discovered the red paint 'attack' on his house at 7.30am, while making coffee.

The state assemblyman said he was grateful his family of six was not injured in the incident at the house where he had lived for the past 10 months.

"This is the first time such an incident has occured in the 10 years I have been involved in politics. I believe it is related to the sand mining graft claims I had made," he added.

He said he would not withdraw graft allegations against Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) which involved some senior officials in the company.

Meanwhile, Selangor acting CID chief ACP Omar Mammah, when contacted, said police believed more than one person was responsible for the incident at Manikavasagam's house.

He said that a threatening note and three paint-filled plastic packets were found at the premises.
-Bernama

Kelantan to offer illegal racers race track

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan government has said it planned to build a multimillion-dollar racing circuit in a bid to lure illegal racers away from its roads.


Known as Mat Rempits, illegal racers terrify road users with their souped-up motorcycles and cars, racing on city streets and in the surrounding countryside late at night, frequently causing accidents.

Attempts to curb illegal racing in Malaysia have had only mild success, pushing authorities in 2008 to announce plans to cane habitual illegal road racers, suspend their licences and confiscate their vehicles.

The RM10 million circuit in Kelantan will "prevent fans of illegal car races and motorcycle races from abusing our roads as a racetrack," chief minister Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat told state media.

It would also "eliminate social problems associated with the Mat Rempit," the minister said, referring to the use of drugs and alcohol by some racers.

Malaysians enjoy legal high-speed motorcycle and car races, with the country's Sepang International Circuit (SIC) south of Kuala Lumpur hosting the annual Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix and the Malaysian MotoGP.

- AFP

Dissolve your party, Muhyiddin tells PKR

(Bernama) - Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) was losing more support with many of its leaders and supporters leaving the party.

Muhyiddin, who is the deputy president, said the people were beginning to realise that the party only championed certain individuals and did not bring benefit to the people.

“Many leaders who support PKR have begun to lose confidence. The party no longer struggles for the people but for individuals,” he told reporters after launching the national-level Teachers Day celebrations at Universiti Malaysia Pahang here.

Muhyiddin was asked to comment on the departure of many leaders and supporters from the party of late.On Saturday, the Ipoh Barat PKR branch was reportedly dissolved after 19 of its 25 committee members resigned.

Muhyiddin said PKR should dissolve and its leaders and supporters should switch their support to Prime Minister Datuk Najib Abdul Razak.

In Putrajaya on Saturday, Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the growing number of PKR members deserting the party proves that it is losing its foothold.

He said the PKR was now perceived as a party which was losing its ground while its dominance was eroding.

“Apart from mesmerising in (PKR adviser) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s oratory skill, PKR is losing the support of the people while its struggle is in disarray,” he told Bernama after the launch of the National Youth Day 2010 by Najib.

“(As such) we urge the remaining members of the party throughout the country to think hard and find a new direction under the auspices of a more meaningful struggle.”

Who do we want to go to war with?


Operating expenditure for defence in 2009 was RM10.65 billion and the development expenditure was RM2.35 billion, said Defence Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahidi, as reported by Bernama on 25 June 2009. The question is: who are we preparing to go to war with and if a hostile country really wanted to attack us would we be able to defend ourselves in spite of all this money we are spending?
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia's real GDP shrank 6.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) in Q109 after growing 0.1% in the previous quarter, which has bolstered our view that the economy will witness a full-year recession in 2009. The decline in the first quarter was the worst since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998, proving the country is just as vulnerable to the current global recession as its regional peers such as Singapore and Thailand who also experienced precipitous declines in GDP over the same period. With this in mind, we have lowered our 2009 growth forecast, from 0.5% to -1.9%.
However, although recently released economic data still paint a bleak picture, there have been tentative signs that the economy may be bottoming out, possibly heralding a mild economic recovery by the end of 2009. Indeed, the effects from the announced MYR60bn (US$16.9bn) stimulus and monetary easing should come into play soon.
Malaysia had indicated that a portion of this package would go to the Defence Ministry for additional development projects. Major defence procurements at the start of 2009 included two contracts totalling MYR603mn with two companies supplying parts and components to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) for five years. It was also announced at the start of 2009 that the country's first submarine, a French-made Scorpene-class KD Abdul Rahman, is scheduled for delivery in July 2009. The Sepanggar Naval base, a 190ha naval base project costing MYR636mn, is also scheduled to be completed in July. The submarine will be housed at the new naval base. A second submarine KD Tun Abdul Razak, is expected to arrive at the end of the year.
We continue to expect the Malaysian government to increase defence spending by 4% annually, in real terms, over the coming years. Absolute increases will depend in part on how the country's economy fares in the face of the global financial crisis.
Speaking ahead of the seventh Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) in Kuala Lumpur on June 1, 2009, Minister of Defence Dato Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi said Malaysia would be making a shift in its defence policy in efforts to become an important player in the defence industry. -- Report Buyer, June 2009
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Starburst, UK-made manportable SAM, effective range : 0,3-7,0 km (photo : NST)

'Asean Should Cooperate to Beef up Defence'

KOTA TINGGI, 15 May 2010: The armed forces yesterday tested its newly-acquired FN-6, a third generation passive infrared portable air defence system developed by China.


FN-6, China-made manportable SAM, effective range 6 km (photo : Tempur)

The surface to air missile, designed to engage low-flying targets at a range of 6km and a maximum altitude of 3.5km, is the latest addition to the armed forces' inventory.


Igla 9K310 with Dzighit launcher, Russia-made SAM, effective range 5,9km (photo : Militaryphotos)
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who witnessed the testing of the missile, said he was satisfied with the test results.


Anza Mk II, Pakistan-made manportable SAM, 5 km range effective (photo : Militaryphotos)

The missile firing exercise called "Panah Jaguh 1/2010", at Tanjung Logok here, also saw the testing of the Target Acquisition Radar Systems (TRML-3D), supplied by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS).


Jernas, UK-made SHORAD, range 9km (photo : Gokart)

Other artillery weapons tested included the 35mm Oerlikon/Skyguard, Jernas missile, Igla missile, Anza Mk-II missile, Starburst missile and Giraffe radar.



Blindfire fire control Dagger radar for Jernas, effective range 15km (photo : kmbyaf)
Also present was army chief Gen Tan Sri Muhammad Ismail Jamaluddin.
Zahid said armed forces personnel must be prepared at all times with the best artillery and equipment.


TRML-3D, European-made radar, the radar has a range of 200 km (photo : EADS)
He said Asean countries needed to strengthen knowledge-sharing in defence technology and reduce dependence on technology from Western countries.

Giraffe PS-70 is a short-range (40 km instrumented range) air defence radar (photo : kbmyaf)
Zahid, who had just returned from Hanoi, added that although Malaysia had acquired the latest defence technology from the West, it could, at the same time, share them with its neighbours, with the consent of the suppliers.

Skyguard radar for Oerlikon twin cannon, effective range 15km (photo : chunky)
"By doing this, we can ensure that a large portion of the money spent for defence is circulated among the Asean countries.
Oerlikon GDF-003 twin 35mm cannon, effective range 4km (photo : kbmyaf)
" Zahid said Asean countries should also hold more joint exercises to beef up defence and security in the region.

Another air defense artillery arsenals are L-70 and Bofors 40mm (photo : kbmyaf)
He also said the armed forces would send a medical team to Afghanistan. "The government is waiting for the green light from Afghanistan to send the team of 60 personnel. The deployment of the team is an effort to show our country's commitment to promoting peace in the country."
http://defense-studies.blogspot.com/2010/05/malaysia-tests-air-defense-capability.html

PRK Sibu – Titik Perubahan pilihanraya Negeri Sarawak

Dari Harakah Daily
Oleh Wan Nik Wan Yussof
Benar atau tidak politik Sarawak sedang dalam perubahan, pastinya akan terjawab selepas keputusan pilihan raya kecil Sibu diketahui. Atas alasan, kemungkinan sokongan pengundi di Sibu bakal memberi nilai yang tepat kepada senario politik Sarawak. Ini kerana pilihan raya Sibu merupakan ujian kepada Barisan Nasional (BN) yang berdepan dengan Pakatan Rakyat yang baru mendapat anggota baru, Sarawak National Party (SNAP) yang sebelum ini pernah menganggotai BN. Sementelah pula, keputusan pilihan raya kecil Hulu Selangor yang lepas telah menyaksikan sokongan meningkat pengundi Cina kepada Pakatan Rakyat. Apakah ia bakal mempamerkan warna sebenar politik negeri Sarawak di penghujung kepimpinan ketua menterinya yang paling lama memimpin negeri.
Sekadar ingatan, nilai sokongan itu sebenarnya boleh dilihat sejak pilihan raya negeri 1996. Ketika itu, BN dikenali BN4 yang disertai Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Sarawak (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP),  SNAP, dan Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS). Sementara parti pembangkang terdiri daripada Democratic Action Party (DAP) dan pihak Bebas sahaja. Keputusannya, BN4 telah memenangi 57 kerusi, sementara pembangkang memenangi lima kerusi (DAP 3 dan Bebas 2). Ia turut membuktikan penerimaan kepada pembangkang, khususnya pengundi Cina yang memberi kemenangan kepada DAP di kawasan bandar (Meradong, Bukit Assek, dan Kidurong).
Kemudian pilihan raya negeri 2001 BN meraih kemenangan 61 daripada 62 kerusi yang dipertandingkan. Parti komponen BN masih kekal empat parti, iaitu PBB, SUPP, PBDS dan SNAP. Sementara parti pembangkang pula terdiri daripada tiga parti, iaitu DAP, Parti Keadilan Nasional (KeADILan), dan buat kali pertama penyertaan Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS). Namun, PAS hanya bertanding di tiga kerusi sahaja, iaitu Samariang, Sadong Jaya dan Beting Maro. Ketika itu pembangkang hanya memenangi 2 kerusi, iaitu masing-masing satu DAP dan satu bebas. PAS tidak memenangi apa-apa kerusi.
Pada pilihan raya negeri Sarawak 2006 pula berlaku sedikit anjakan senario politik apabila pihak pembangkang berjaya membentuk kerjasama melalui Barisan Bersatu Sarawak. Ia dianggotai tiga parti utama, iaitu SNAP, KeADILan dan DAP. Sementara PAS hanya menjalin kerjasama dengan KeADILan dan bertanding di satu kerusi sahaja, iaitu Beting Maro dalam parlimen Batang Lupar. Kesan kerjasama itu, pembangkang berjaya menambah kemenangan dari dua kerusi pada 2001 kepada sembilan kerusi, iaitu masing-masingnya satu SNAP, satu KeADILan, satu bebas dan enam DAP. Namun PAS masih gagal memenangi kerusi tunggal yang ditandingi. Jelas sekali, kesan kerjasama parti-parti pembangkang telah membawa pertambahan sokongan pengundi terutama di kawasan pengundi kaum Cina. Ini bermakna politik pengundi Cina agak utuh bersama pembangkang, khususnya bagi DAP yang saling bersaing dengn SUPP di atas sentimen kaum Cina.
Pada 2006, SUPP sebagai parti teras Cina dalam komponen BN bertanding 19 kerusi (16 kerusi daripadanya adalah dominan pengundi Cina) didapati tujuh kerusi di kawasan bandar. Kekalahan itu adalah kepada DAP (lima kerusi – Pending, Batu Lintang, Meradong, Bukit Assek dan Kindurong), KeADILan (satu kerusi – Padungan) dan SNAP (satu kerusi – Engkili). Apa yang menarik, kekalahan SUPP itu dianggap ‘teruk’ berikutan beberapa tokoh penting parti itu kecundang kepada DAP. Antaranya menteri muda, Datuk Sim Khend Hui dan Datuk Alfred Yap Chin Loi, dan Datuk Bandar Kuching, Chan Seng Khai. Termasuk tokoh yang kalah juga adalah penjawat utama jawatan parti, iaitu Setiausaha Agung, Naib Bendahari, Setiausaha Penerangan dan ahli jawatankuasa pusat SUPP.
Menurut Ghazali dan Lee (2009) yang mengkaji politik Cina Sarawak dalam pilihan raya negeri 2006, punca kekalahan SUPP itu adalah antaranya disebabkan isu dalaman parti SUPP seperti faktor calon, perpecahan dalaman dan faktor ekonomi (kenaikan harga minyak petrol, harga pajakan tanah dan perasaan dipinggirkan dari arus pembangunan nasional). Meskipun begitu, kajian mereka itu tidak melihat aspek perpaduan parti pembangkang dan peranan tokoh pembangkang seperti Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dan Lim Kit Siang yang turut memainkan peranan meyakinkan pengundi Cina di Sarawak.
Natijahnya, faktor pengundi Cina dilihat berombak antara pilihan raya negeri 1999, 2001 dan 2006. Misalnya dalam pilihan raya negeri 2001 sokongan pengundi Cina kepada SUPP memuncak kepada 66.2 peratus, tetapi merundum kepada 49.2 peratus tahun 2006. Kesannya pada pilihan raya umum 2008, prestasi BN khususnya SUPP kembali pulih apabila menerima lonjakan undi dan berjaya mengekalkan kawasan tradisi di semua parlimen kecuali Bandar Kuching kekal dimenangi DAP. Berdasarkan realiti ini, apakah pilihan raya kecil Sibu kali ini menjadi titik perubahan sokongan pengundi Cina menjelang pilihan raya negeri Sarawak nanti. Rekod pilihan raya yang lepas cukup membuktikan dominasi BN adalah di semua parlimen di Sarawak, kecuali pilihan raya 1995 parlimen Bintulu dimenangi DAP dan di parlimen Sibu dimenangi DAP pada pilihan raya 2004 dan 2008. Sedangkan dalam tempoh pilihan raya umum 2008, anjakan sokongan pengundi Cina dari BN kepada parti-parti pembangkang berlaku agak ketara di Semenanjung. Ia tidak berlaku di Sarawak.
Walau bagaimanapun, mood pengundian ketika pilihan raya kecil Hulu Selangor meskipun dimenangi BN, tetapi pola pengundian kalangan pengundi Cina amat tegas menolak BN. Ia terbukti apabila di Kuala Kubu Bharu, salah satu dewan undangan negeri yang dominan pengundi Cina didapati Pakatan Rakyat mengatasi BN, sedangkan pada pilihan raya umum 2008 ia dimenangi BN. Mungkinkah mood itu menular ke Sibu?
Menjawab persoalan di atas, sebenarnya Sibu dengan pengundinya adalah majoriti kaum Cina Foochow ada keunikannya. Pihak mana yang akan menang sebenarnya masih terikat kepada performance parti-parti dan calon bertanding. Atas kefahamanan inilah, pihak DAP telah meletakkan pendekatan kempen yang seimbang bagi mendekati pengundi Cina, Melanau, Melayu, Iban dan Bidayuh. Sedangkan pihak SUPP pula didapati menjayakan kempen mengutamakan citarasa pengundi Cina sehingga merancang perarakan Tua Pek Kong akan diketuai Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib di penghujung kempen. Namun, gelagat pengundi Cina dijangka lebih bijak berasaskan respons pasukan kempen Pakatan Rakyat yang mengunjungi mereka di gudang, pasar dan perumahan. Segala-galanya akan terjawab pada 16 Mei nanti. Sejauh mana tegarnya gelagat pengundi Cina Hulu Selangor menolak BN, natijah persekitaran sosial dan politik serta ekonomi dan perniagaan di Sibu terlalu bebeza dengan di Hulu Selangor. Jika latar politik Semenanjung menjadi senario untuk meramalkan keputusannya, maka pilihan raya kecil Sibu bakal menyaksikan titik perubahan pola pengundinya menafikan dominasi BN. Selayaknya Pakatan Rakyat mampu menang selesa.
Penulis adalah Setiausaha Politik Menteri Besar Kelantan
merangkap Timbalan Pengarah I JPN PAS Kelantan