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Monday, June 21, 2010

A year after Neda's death, Iran movement continues

(CNN) -- A year ago Sunday, Neda Agha-Soltan died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Her last moments -- captured on a cell phone camera and shown around the world-- catapulted her into the symbol of the postelection reform movement in Iran.

Today, the Iranian regime's crackdown seems to have driven protesters off the streets. But the movement is not weakening, some analysts say. Instead, it's evolved into an online underground civil rights struggle, they say.

"I think they're going to continue to move forward, whether in the form of a green movement or another type of movement," said Karim Sadjadpour, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It's just, basically, this march of history."

Agha-Soltan, 26, was at an anti-government demonstration in Tehran when she was felled by a single bullet to the chest.

"She has been shot! Someone, come and take her!" shouts one man in the shaky cell phone video that has since been seen around the world.

The video then shows blood streaming from her mouth, then from her nose. Her eyes roll to her right; her body is limp.

A man, who had accompanied her to the rally, is then heard pleading with her by name.

"Neda, do not be afraid, do not be afraid," he repeats.

Agha-Soltan was taken to a nearby hospital and, within a day, she was buried at Behesht Zahra, the city's largest Muslim cemetery, on the outskirts of the capital.

Immediately afterward, she emerged as the face of the anti-government movement.

Even world leaders took notice.

"We've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets," said President Barack Obama.

Eight days before Agha-Soltan's death, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide election victory unleashed massive demonstrations in the country.

Thousands of green-clad protesters took to the streets, accusing the government of rigging the elections.

Iran's leaders called the uprising a foreign-led plot to overthrow the regime. It cracked down on the protesters -- with many killed and even more jailed.

Images of the bloody crackdown fueled worldwide outrage. Agha-Soltan's pictures are still carried on placards at rallies outside Iran.

"She will become the image of this brutality, and of the role -- the truly significant role -- that women have played in fighting this regime," said Abbas Milani of Stanford University in California. "I think that women are the unsung heroes of the last few years. They are the ones who began chipping away at the authority, the absolute dictatorship of the mullahs."

Iranian authorities continue to deny that security forces were responsible for killing Agha-Soltan.

Instead, they have offered at least three separate explanations. They have blamed the CIA, terrorists and supporters of the opposition movement themselves.

One year after Agha-Soltan's death, Iranian officials have yet to announce a single arrest in connection with her killing.

Parliament has final say on Tian Chua, says deputy speaker

KUALA LUMPUR, (The Malaysian Insider) — Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar maintained today that the House has final say over PKR’s Chua Tian Chang’s status as the Batu MP.Grab a Celcom Blue Bear(TM) and stand to walk away with RM10,000!

Wan Junaidi said, however, that the decision can only be made after the House receives the official sealed judgment from the High Court.

Additionally, he pointed out that Chua still has a 14-day window period to appeal his case, which means that the House cannot make a decision until the period expires.

“We need to take into account several things — including what the judge had in mind when he meted out the decision.

“Once we receive the judgment, a proper study will be done on the documents, perhaps we will speak with some lawyers and even the Attorney-General himself,” he told reporters in Parliament today.

He added that following that, a decision would be made on whether the matter should be brought before the House to be decided on.

“The decision that I am speaking of here is not on whether Chua is disqualified but on whether the judgment should be brought to Parliament; whether Parliament has to be informed that someone has been constitutionally disqualified and if Parliament wants to debate on it, they can go ahead,” he said.

Wan Junaidi declared that the Speaker does not have the jurisdiction to summarily declare a seat vacant without first bringing the matter up to the House to decide.

“Even in cases when the representative does not attend Parliament for six months... the Speaker has no authority to give a disqualification. It has to be brought to the House and the MPs will decide,” he said.

Wan Junaidi, however , said that all angles would first be considered in Chua’s case before the decision on whether the issue should be brought before the House is decided on.

“Do not forget that prior to the RM2,000 fine, Chua was initially fined RM3,000. That decision was reviewed.

“So we need to look at the previous judgment and the appeal judgment before we decide,” he said.

He admitted that the situation was a tricky one due to the dispute on whether the RM2,000 fine was enough to disqualify Chua from his Batu seat.

“We are not talking about RM1,999 or RM2,001 here. This is RM2,000.. . it is just there, not above or below.

“However, I suspect that the judge who decided to review the original fine did so with the excuse that he wanted to avoid a by-election,” he said.

Chua’s MP status was hotly-debated last week following the ruling after several allies from his Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc noted that Chua was automatically disqualified from being a federal lawmaker by virtue of the RM2,000 fine.

DAP chairman Karpal Singh, a veteran lawyer, noted Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, which states that any person sentenced to jail for not less than one year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000 and has not received a royal pardon is disqualified from being a member of Parliament.

Karpal also said his party was ready to face fresh polls in Batu. He was backed by PAS, which part of the PR alliance.

The Election Commission had initially considered calling a by-election for Batu but has since decided to wait for the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s official notice.

But Karpal, who is also Bukit Gelugor MP, highlighted Article 53 of the Constitution saying the disqualification did not require an official notice from the Speaker.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said, however, that there was no need for the Parliament to decide on Chua’s status as the judge’s decision should be final.

Khairy to Pakatan: Give us a shadow Cabinet

By Ken Vin Lek - Free Malaysia Today,

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said that he will endorse any institutional reform to support allocation of funds to a structured Pakatan Rakyat shadow Cabinet, if it was formed.

“If Pakatan can actually commit to coming up with a shadow Cabinet, I will personally support the structural reform to attend to Pakatan’s call for more resources in various ministries.

“People right now want to know what is the readiness of Pakatan, if they were to actually win the next general election” he said.

Khairy was responding to questions at a forum organised by The Nutgraph last night in Bangsar near here.

Earlier in the forum, PJ Utara MP Tony Pua had dismissed the idea of a shadow Cabinet within Pakatan, citing lack of organised funding.

“Unlike the United Kingdom Cabinet, there is no such position in our Parliament. The thing which makes the UK so effective is the amount of research funds allocated to them,” said Pua.

“For Pakatan, we have no civil service behind us to help us with the policy papers and we simply do not have enough funds to employ them.

“That is why we chose to have one elected representative from each party in the coalition to helm a particular portfolio.”

Pua said the only way a shadow Cabinet could be formed was if there was institutional support.

In rebutting Pua’s claims, Khairy said these were merely “excuses” and that funding was secondary to a commitment to appointing an individual from the coalition to a particular portfolio.

“Even if the excuse is the lack of civil service support, we actually want to see who is your shadow minister.

“It just goes to show that Pakatan is not as solid a coalition if you cannot even come together and appoint a shadow cabinet,” Khairy said.

Umno needs a transformational reform

Posed with a question on Umno’s refusal to change despite the shocking outcome 2008 general election, Khairy said: “Umno members have an endemic DNA of Ketuanan Melayu deeply engrained in them.

“A lot of these members have to be sent back to political school and re-educated thus putting an end to the BTN (Biro Tata Negara) style of thinking.”

Touching on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s response to Perkasa over the 10th MalaysiaPlan, Khairy said: “The PM has to spend quality time with right wing group within the party, like Perkasa.

“He cannot just appeal to one group of people. The last thing I want to happen is for the PM to be outflanked by members in the same party.”

Drawing a comparison, Khairy said former prime minister Abdullah Badawi was outflanked by the “patron of Perkasa” and his predecessor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“As a result Abdullah was kicked out of power and I don’t want a similar scenario being repeated under the helm of Najib,” he said.

Khairy also dismissed suggestions that Umno needs to lose power in order to change, stating that 2008 was enough of a wake up call for them to respond to the people’s needs.

“What Umno needs right now is serious transformational reforms within the party just like how Britian’s Labour Party dropped Clause 4 in their constitution which promoted socialism in their community.

“I don't care if I stick out like a sore thumb by sounding different from the party’s stand.

“I have absolutely nothing lose. I’m just a youth chief and have no ministerial portfolio.

“What matters to me most however is that within my term as Umno Youth chief, I make the necessary changes I deem important within the party,” he added. The forum was attended by about 80 people. The other speaker at the forum was Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.

Hindraf to help track down Sarawak's assets abroad

By Joe Fernandez

KOTA KINABALU: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi is prepared to help civic action groups in Sarawak to trace, claim and bring back any ill-gotten gains salted away abroad by local politicians. This includes making forensic accountants available from London and other key western financial capitals for the institution of class action suits.

The ad hoc apolitical human rights movement made the offer in the wake of a website report last week that shed light on some of the assets allegedly accumulated by Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud in Canada and other countries.

The assets, as the accusations go, do not commensurate with Taib’s known sources of lawful income as the chief minister since 1981. Taib currently draws a monthly salary of RM 20,000 as chief minister.

“Since 9/11, the international laws against money laundering and terrorism have become extremely tough,” said the London-based Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy in a telephone call last Friday before leaving for Singapore. “There are also laws in western and many other countries against Third World or other dictators parking their ill-gotten gains in their places.”

Ill-gotten gains abroad, said Waythamoorthy, can be frozen by the courts pending the disposal of class action suits.

He said that as far back as the post-Marcos era in the Philippines, civic action groups have successfully persuaded various courts abroad to freeze and return ill-gotten assets.

“Our (Hindraf) role is to study and advise civic action groups on the various international options to bring Taib to justice and return what belongs to the people of Sarawak,” said Waythamoorthy, a British-trained lawyer. “This is not just about Taib but anyone in Sarawak who needs to be brought to justice.”

Third force

Asked what possible benefits that Hindraf could derive from being involved in the pursuit of the Sarawak chief minister in the courts, Waythamoorthy said the movement stood for the solidarity of the emerging “third force” in Malaysian politics.

“Our involvement in the pursuit of Taib must be seen as part of this solidarity of the Third Force,” said Waythamoorthy. “We don’t know whether the journey will end in the destination that we have envisaged. The main concern at the moment is to at least begin the process.”

Hindraf has commenced a trillion-dollar class action suit as well in London against the British and Malaysian governments “for centuries of criminal exploitation” of Malaysians of Indian-origin, especially those in the estate sector.

The Hindraf chief sees the Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA), an ad hoc apolitical human rights movement, as its chief ally in the pursuit of Taib “to the ends of the Earth”.

Besides CigMA, chairman Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan, who is based in Kota Kinabalu, Waythamoorthy identified other possible allies such as former Sarawak deputy chief minister Daniel Tajem Anak Miri, green activist and lawyer Harrison Ngau Laing, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) senior activist Nicholas Bawin and native land rights activist Baru Bian. Baru is also the Sarawa PKR chief.

One other possible ally is Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen, said Waythamoorthy.

He said the Sarawak DAP MP has queried Taib many times in the State Legislative Assembly over the lawfulness of his business dealing while in public office.

Waythamoorthy is confident that Chong would like to join forces with the other Sarawak activists and him “to force Taib and his family out of public office and seek the speedy return of the people’s wealth”.

Facilitator role

Jeffrey, in a response late yesterday, said he would have to study how the people of Sarawak would respond to their continuing dilemma over Taib.

“The names mentioned by Waythamoorthy are probably the best ones to work with, for a start,” said Jeffrey. “My role is to act as the facilitator between Hindraf and Sarawak activists.”

Jeffrey, also a PKR vice-president with special responsibility for Sabah and Sarawak, plans to broach the subject of Taib’s multi-billion dollar assets abroad at a meeting of the party’s political bureau in Kuala Lumpur soon.

Baru said he was "shocked" to hear that Taib's family had amassed such a huge amount of wealth while the rural population in the state remained poor. "I really hope that the Canadian authorities will investigate this case and determine if Sakto Development Corporation is in breach of the Canadian laws,” Baru said.

He added that he was currently trying to get hold of the evidence behind the news report in order to lodge a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Taib and his office were not immediately available for comment.

One political secretary requested that a copy of the website report be e-mailed to him.

Another close aide said last night that the Sarawak Barisan Nasional strongman was considering his legal options against the website.

“These reports will not have any effect on the performance of the BN in the rural areas,” said the close aide. “Taib remains strong and will be able to ride out this storm as on previous occasions. All this is the work of jealous people who can’t see the good that he has done so far for the state.”

He said that Taib “had correctly read the political temperature in rural Sarawak” when he stressed recently that the people are poor and depend on the government to help them.

Taib’s predictable response in previous instances where impropriety was imputed to him was a blanket denial of any wrong-doing.

Parliament has final say on Tian Chua, says deputy speaker

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar maintained today that the House would have the final say over PKR’s Chua Tian Chang’s status as the Batu MP.
Grab a Celcom Blue Bear(TM) and stand to walk away with RM10,000!

Wan Junaidi said however that the decision would only be made after the House received the official sealed judgment from the High Court.

“We need to take into account several things — including what the judge had in mind when he meted out the decision.

“Once we receive the judgement, a proper study will be done on the documents, perhaps we will speak with some lawyers and even the Attorney-General himself,” he told reporters in Parliament today.

He added that following that, a decision would be made on whether the matter should be brought before the House to be decided on.

“The decision that I am speaking of here is not on whether Chua is disqualified but on whether the judgment should be brought to Parliament; whether Parliament has to be informed that someone has been constitutionally disqualified and if Parliament wants to debate on it, they can go ahead,” he said.

Hindraf briefs Downing Street on Indian woes

By Athi Shankar - Free Malaysia Today
Hindraf supremo P Waythamoorthy briefed the British government recently on alleged serious violations of human rights in Malaysia, especially on minority Indian community.
He highlighted the Malaysian government's alleged deliberate attempts to deny Indian students their right to public university education despite attaining top results in qualifying examinations.
Waythamoorthy said he also submitted a copy of Hindraf’s Human Rights Report to Prime Minister David Cameron’s representatives during a 20-minute deliberation at 10 Downing Street in London.
The report touched on perceived violations of human rights and the marginalisation of the Indian community by the government, especially the Umno-led Putrajaya administration.
According to Waythamoorthy, he had pointed out to the UK government that the discrimination and marginalisation of Indian Malaysians on all fronts have been systematically carried out by the Umno-dominated federal government for past 53 years.
The British government was told that the Indian community here had been victimised by ethnic-centric and racist policies since the British colonialists left in 1957.
Complaint lodged with the UN too
Waythamoorthy urged the British premier to make an urgent representation to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s government on the issues of human rights violations.
Waythamoorthy was accompanied by Hindraf UK member Anusiya Aparao and two others.
Anusiya, an active Hindraf member, stressed to Cameron’s officials that the UK government must seriously view and take up human rights violations in Malaysia.
The meeting was arranged upon Hindraf's request on an urgent basis in the wake of recent denial of educational rights to Indian Malaysian students.
On June 7, Hindraf lodged an official complaint to Geneva-based Githu Muigai - the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, on alleged discrimination against Indian Malaysian students.
Waythamoorthy has accused the federal government of denying deserving students any form of financial assistance to continue tertiary education.
He claimed that numerous deserving Indian students who achieved excellent results in STPM were denied government sponsorships or scholarships to further their education in public universities.

M'sian 'detained' in Egypt for alleged terrorist link

By Rahmah Ghazali
VIDEO INSIDE KLANG: It was supposed to be a family homecoming from Egypt, but little did she expect that she would be returning home with her two sons but without the company of her husband.
In an exlusive interview with FMT here, the 33-year-old housewife, who only wanted to be known as Hidayah, said that it has been more than two weeks since she was in contact with her husband, Muhamad Zulkifli Mohamad Zakaria or affectionately known as “Ustaz Ibrahim” (green baju Melayu) , 41, after they were seperated at the airport.
Holding back her tears, Hidayah recalled that her husband was detained by the Egyptian immigration soon after they received their boarding passes to Malaysia at Cairo International Airport on July 13.
She said her family spent about one month in Egypt as Zulkifli was to sit for Syariah examinations in Zamalek University for his Master's degree.
According to her, she and their two sons, both four and two, had no problem with their documentation and they were let through to the boarding room to wait for their husband.
"But we waited for him for quite some time, and we almost missed the flight. A lady, maybe an officer, approached me, saying that my husband could not board the plane because of some immigration problem.
"She then told me that I should board on the plane without my husband. I was hesitant initially, but soon after that my husband sent me a text message saying that we should proceed without him. He also told me he didn't know why he was detained," said Hidayah.
And that was the last text message he received from her husband, she said.
A cover-up by Malaysian authorities?
It has now been more than a week since she has lost contact with her husband. She has sought help from the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, the Malaysian Embassy and the police but to no avail.
Hidayah now suspects that it must have something to do with Zulkifli's background as a former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee for allegedly having links with Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) back in 2001.
However, she said this could not be the case as her husband was released years later without any conditions.
"And what puzzles me the most is, if he was a terrorist, why was he let go on the first day we arrived in Egypt? Besides, when we went to Indonesia three years ago, there was no problem at all," said Hidayah.
She also revealed that she received "wrong information" of her husband's whereabouts from the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and police headquarters in Bukit Aman.
"What surprised me the most is that the ambassador did not even know about my husband's status," she said.
"Some of the Special Branch officers told me that my husband would be on the next flight on Kuwait Airways the next day... When we called Malaysian Foreign Ministry, we were told the same thing.
"But when we checked the passengers' list, his name was not on it," she said.
However, with the help of Malaysian students in Egypt, Hidayah was told that it was confirmed that Zulkifli was put in a police lock-up, but the location was not made known.
"We don't know what he was detained for and if there are any charges. Usually, it would take only a few days for the investigation to complete. Now it has been more than a week. I am just scared that the police over there have refused to believe his statements," she said.
Jumping to her husband's defence, she said there was no way that her husband would be involved in terrorist acts as "he was with us all the time".
"If he was not at the university, he would be at home with us. Whenever we wanted to go out, we always went out in groups," said teary-eyed Hidayah.
"I hope the government can get involved in this matter and help us. We are powerless," she added.
A 'terrorist' face?
Speaking to FMT later, Zulkifli's friend, Nazri Din, said he was on the phone with the former two minutes before the flight was boarding.
"He didn't tell me why he was detained. He only said that his wife was going home without him," said Nazri.
He also said he was told by one of the Malaysian students that Zulkifli could be detained because of his "terrorist look".
"They said Zulkifli had a face similiar to a terrorist's, as he was of Pakistani ancestry. But if that is the case, why didn't they arrest him when he first touched down in Egypt?" he asked.
He also suspected that this could be well linked with Zulkifli's ISA background that came to the knowledge of the Egyptian authorities.
According to him, Egypt has been "careful" with passengers coming in and out of the country now that it was forced to open up its border on Gaza Strip following a deadly attack on a humanitarian flotilla by the Israeli military early this month.
"It (the flotilla attack) happened when Zulkifli was already in Egypt. I think Egypt is now scared that many Muslim fighters would enter Gaza through its border," said Nazri.
He also did not rule out the possibility that it might have something to do with Malaysia's recent call to tighten security in educational institutions due to Jemaah Islamiah's (JI) terrorist network.
"We don't know the real reason behind it. The Malaysian Embassy should pressure the Egyptian government to find out why he was detained. It seems like even the police in Malaysia are hiding something.
"We want the government to be responsible as I am very scared that he will be brought to a third party (the United States) under Israel's pressure," Nazri said, adding that the government "has done nothing" to help.

‘Don’t abandon BN because you don’t like me’

By FMT Staff
BALINGIAN: In his home constituency here, Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud urged his constituents not to abandon the Barisan Nasional just because they disliked him.
“I am not saying that I am the best leader. I am an ordinary human being.
“But if I was not good to the state, people and party, do you think I would have remained the CM until now?” he asked, referring to rumours of widespread dissatisfaction over his administration of the state and family encashment of Sarawak’s natural wealth.
Citing an old Malay adage which mirrored the English saying “don’t cut your nose to spite your face”, he said if need be, he would play politics to “safeguard and defend BN”.
“Whether I contest or not in the coming state election is not the issue.
“But I am prepared to play politics to defend and safeguard the BN government, which is good,” he said, touching on sentiments which he has brought to the fore since BN lost its seat in last month’s Sibu by-election.
The shocking defeat stunned the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) which had fielded candidate Robert Lau, but more importantly, it also reinforced growing views that the opposition was making inroads into Sarawak.
While SUPP has openly accepted DAP as a legitimate and lethal threat to its political longevity, other BN component parties have remained silent over the infiltration into the state by peninsular-based opposition parties under the Pakatan Sarawak banner.
Promises of development
Last week in, Sibu Taib said he was confident that Bumiputera would continue to support the government because "they are humble”.
“They (Bumiputera) know they are poor and in difficulty. So they place high hopes on the government to help them out," he said.
His admission that the Bumiputeras were poor was the first in political history.
Sarawak has an abundance of natural resources and is considered the richest state, yet 40 years on, it has the poorest population.
Taib and his team have made many pledges of projects and developments but delivery has been poor.
Launching the Bederun festival over the weekend, his promise of development was a reminder of earlier pledges.
This time, Taib told residents in Balingian that he had big plans for the small district, leaving them with the impression that the big plans included well-paying jobs for the locals by 2030.

Where is the NEM in the 10th Plan?

By Lim Teck Ghee
COMMENT The 10th Malaysia Plan was heavily advertised as the plan that would usher in a new economic era for all Malaysians built on a New Economic Model.
The key features of the NEM were:
  • Merit and excellence criteria for all implementation decisions and processes,
  • Transparency, accountability and integrity as part of normal business practice,
  • Dismantling of quotas, preferences, APs, closed tenders and other non-competitive processes.
Now that it is out, I search in vain for all these criteria and for signs of the major policy reforms that were supposed to be in the pipeline.
Some of the rhetoric remains in the document. There has been a tweaking of strategy here and there. But at the heart of the 10th Plan is still the same model of state-dominated development, and ethnic and crony preference that has driven all the other Malaysia Plans.
The New Economic Model had promised that there would be a focus on raising income levels of all disadvantaged and marginalized groups, irrespective of race. The policy would be “market friendly”, “merit-based”, “transparent” and “needs-based”, and would emphasize the bottom 40% of Malaysia’s income strata, whether individually or regionally, according to the Prime Minister when he first publicly unveiled NEM.
Clearly, the Prime Minister has beaten a hasty retreat from the paradigm shift that was promised. What we have with the latest Malaysia Plan is not NEM but the same old economic model.
30 percent unmoving target
Consider for example the 30% Bumiputera corporate equity ownership target which has been the centrepiece of eight previous plans and which resulted in the wrong emphasis on allocation of scarce resources to a privileged and wealthy Malay class and non-Malay cronies. Not only does this target remain but it is being reinforced beyond corporate equity to other properties and business assets.
The mind boggles at the new wealth opportunities created for the Malay – now extended to other bumiputera and non-Malay elite. Under the earlier NEP dominated model, much of public monies and resources have ended up in the hands of various distributional coalitions tied up with trusteeship of the NEP and related programmes; namely, political, bureaucratic, military and aristocratic.
These coalitions, although dominated by Umno, the No 1 in the ruling coalition, is to some extent multi-racial, has overlapping membership and is built on an intricate network of convergent interests arising from kinship, business and professional relationships (extending even to multi-racial marriages!)
Trusteeship and control of decision-making has resulted in a very rapid process of wealth accumulation under the control of the Malay elite trustees and managers. These consequences follow from biased decision-making in which private and public brokers and facilitators collude behind the scenes.
Taking advantage of their positions and freed from the rigorous checks and balances necessary to ensure that genuine bumiputera and the public interests are fully safeguarded, these groups have been given license to engage in self-enrichment through rent-seeking behavior, exaction of high transaction costs and other forms of non-competitive bargains. These coalitions have emerged as the fatal deadweight burden on the Malaysian economy, augmenting its non-competitive aspects.
No evidence has been presented in the 10th Plan that it will not be business as usual for the distributional coalitions. Instead, the highly lucrative divestment, outsourcing and public-private projects that comprise a key component of the plan promise a new bonanza.
It is significant that the normally taciturn Yong Poh Kon, the co-chair of the Special Task Force to Facilitate Business, has seen it fit to warn that “open tenders [are] necessary to get the best deals for the nation or Malaysia would be saddled with high tariffs and fares for many years to come, making it burdensome to users and affecting the competitiveness of the economy.
Enter Ibrahim Ali …
The scope for abuse by the distributional coalitions led by Umno and the bureaucracy is compounded by the continuation of the overall ethnic approach to development.
The proponents of the NEM had advocated for the cessation of ethnically driven policies. They failed to take into consideration the political clout of the Malay hardliners. Led by Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa and his patron Dr Mahathir Mohamad, these extremists have reduced the non-ethnic approach largely to platitudes.
When Ibrahim told reporters in Parliament after the unveiling of the 10th Plan that “it was really worth our effort [put into the Bumiputera Economic Congress that voiced their public objection to NEM] and it shows that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak paid heed to the needs of the bumiputera”, he was not boasting. He was merely stating the truth.
Except that Ibrahim Ali missed out mentioning the needs of the bumiputera he was allegedly safeguarding were in fact the elite interests.
In an earlier setting when he first floated NEM, our chameleon Prime Minister had said: “We risk losing our competitive edge altogether if we do not act quickly to address structural barriers to growth that stand in the way of an effective response to the changing economic environment.”
I guess we will have to wait for the 11th Plan to see if this dismantling of structural barriers will finally take place. By then, it may be too late to recover from the tailspin in our economic development.
Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives. An early version of this article appeared in the Chinese paper, ‘The Red Tomato’.

Kg Baru re-development possible without Malays losing land right

By FMT Staff
SHAH ALAM: Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has urged Kampung Baru residents to revisit a re-development proposal which he had presented to them 15 years ago.
He said his suggestions offered an alternative development plan to that which has been proposed by Putrajaya.
Last Monday, owners and inheritors of properties in Kampung Baru had firmly rejected Putrajaya’s proposed redevelopment plans, saying that any work on Kampung Baru must ensure that Malay-Bumiputeras land owners retain 100% of their land rights.
“Since there are many ‘fans’ who want to be guardians of the land in Kampung Baru, I suggest the new project be abandoned,” said Khalid.
“I urge the residents to revisit and re-evaluate the suggestions I made about 15-20 years ago.
‘At that time I was asked by the government to structure Kampung Baru’s redevelopment. I had presented an alternative plan. Redevelopment can be done without the Malay’s losing their land rights.”
When reminded that Kampung Baru was now within the boundaries of the Federal Territories, Khalid said that Selangor still had an administrative responsibility to resolve the issue.
Kampung Baru was once a part of Selangor before the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur was formed. Before this PKNS (Perbadanan Kemajuan Negri Selangor) as an entity was responsible for the development in Kampung Baru.
But according to Khalid the laws which governed administrative rights were still in the hands of the Selangor Menteri Besar.
“It’s not that I want to interfere in the matters of Kampung Baru folk but I would like an opportunity to recap my earlier suggestions. This is so that Kampung Baru residents can experience development without losing their rights over their land,” he said, adding that he would meet with the residents next month to recap his earlier proposal.
“I will meet the residents in July, only to offer an alternative view. It doesn’t mean I can resolve their problems,” he said.

As public interest rises, French prosecutors intensify subs probe

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Amid growing public disquiet, French prosecutors are intensifying their probe into a series of corruption scandals involving state-controlled arms makers DCNS and Thales – vendors of naval ships to several Asian countries including two Scorpene submarines sold to the Malaysian government.

“The French people are getting very interested in the scandals and they are questioning why their politicians and firms are getting involved in unsavory activities just so that they can sell ships to a bunch of third world countries,” PKR strategic director Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

“The questions of morality and ethics are being asked by the French NGOs, who have been campaigning against the rich helping themselves to more riches and benefiting at the expenses of the masses and the poor - especially those in the developing countries.”

Tian was in Paris last week together with several other prominent Malaysian activists. Kuala Lumpur-based NGO Suaram had lodged a complaint with the French authorities earlier this year.

They sought an update from the French police, who two weeks ago had raided the offices of DCNS and Thales, confiscating some documents to help in their probe of a RM5 billion submarines deal sealed between the two French firms and the Malaysian government in 2002.

Since then, allegations have erupted that the two firms may have paid some kick-backs to Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was the Defense Minister sanctioning the purchase at that time. The commission is believed to have been in the region of at least 114 million euros or RM540 million.The submarines were delivered last year.

Greed and murder

Like a similar case involving Taiwan, the Malaysian deal has been marred by a mysterious murder – that of a beautiful Mongolian translator Altantuyaa Shaaribuu. She had threatened to blow the whistle if she did not get her share of the commission from Najib’s close associate Razak Baginda. Altantuya, who could speak four languages including Russian, was believed to have acted as a go-between for the French firms and Baginda.

In Taiwan, as many as eight people are believed to have been murdered to stop them from exposing their case and even today, the current French government is unhappy with MaYing-Jeou’s administration for insisting on a full clean-up and has retaliated by withdrawing defense personnel from the island.

“That is not a wise move because more and more French people see these as despicable acts that their government should distance themselves from. The French taxpayers are also starting to wise up to the fact that they may end up footing the bill for the misdeeds of certain of their own political leaders, their naval firms and even the culprits in the foreign governments that got special deals from them,” Tian said.

Taxpayers demand compensation

The Taiwanese Navy took their case to court and won a massive US$861 million payment from the defense giant Thales, which is 27 percent owned by the French government, for sanctioning the payment of kickbacks to Taiwanese, Chinese and French officials in the purchase of the Lafayette-class stealth frigates in the 1990s.

The Taiwanese Navy filed the case in 2001, alleging it violated Article 18 of the contract signed with Thales, which banned the payment of commissions that are seen as thinly veiled kickbacks.

Taiwan bought 60 of the aircraft from France, along with missiles, at a cost of US$5.2 billion. France has since had to deliver more than US$3 million in compensation for parts and maintenance for the planes, some of which developed engine problems.

Apart from Malaysia and Taiwan, civil rights groups in India and Pakistan are also demanding similar compensation for kick-backs allegedly paid out by the French firms to corrupt government officials, forcing Indian and Pakistani taxpayers - just like those in Malaysia - to foot an inflated price for the arms ordered.

Israelis advising Najib? Could this be the reason?

“Nucleix, a Tel-Aviv-based life sciences company, was able to create credible DNA evidence that could be used to finger the wrong person, proof that even genetic evidence can be manipulated (beyond planting a hair or used cigarette) just like other physical traces” – Read the rest of this revelation HERE.
Commentator cerberus drew my attention to this. Thanks, bro. - Haris Ibrahim

Business council mum over Rosmah ad

by Jacqueline Ann Surin and Koh Lay Chin | The Nut Graph

PETALING JAYA, 21 June 2010: The Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), which conferred the prime minister’s wife an award in New York in April, has remained mum about whether it was the party which placed a congratulatory advertisement in the New York Times (NYT) for her.
BCIU president Peter J Tichansky did not respond to e-mail queries to confirm that the council paid for the NYT ad that congratulated Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for receiving the inaugural and little-known International Peace and Harmony Award.
The Nut Graph sent two e-mail enquiries to Tichansky to ask him to confirm who had actually paid for the award. The first e-mail was sent on 2 June after Tichansky wrote to us to express regret that a “well-intended gesture of welcome and congratulations honoring Malaysia’s First Lady” as the award recipient may have become a “political issue”.
The second e-mail to Tichansky was sent on 15 June after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced in Parliament on that day that BCIU was the organisation that placed the ad. Najib’s statement in Parliament was the first time the government publicly denied that it had paid for the ad. Throughout The Nut Graph’s reporting of the issue, the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to our queries despite being given several opportunities to comment over a period of one month.
The NYT had originally told The Nut Graph that the ad, signed off “from family and friends in USA and Malaysia” was placed by “an ad agency on behalf of the Malaysian government.”
Eighteen days later, the NYT said it had made a mistake. But it would not reveal who actually took out the ad nor clarify how executive director for community affairs and media relations, Diane McNulty, could have made such a mistake. Instead, NYT’s director of public relations, Abbe Serphos, repeated that the ad was signed by “Family and friends in the USA and Malaysia”. Only when pressed did she reply: “In our internal systems the ad was reserved as a Government of Malaysia ad, but in fact the ad was not placed by the Government of Malaysia.”
Tichansky has not responded to either e-mail from The Nut Graph. In addition, Tichansky also did not respond to questions about when the award was conceived and by whom, what criteria were used in conceptualising the award, who the other nominees for the award were, and how Rosmah qualified for it.
In his first and only e-mail to us on 2 June, Tichansky had reiterated BCIU’s “respect for [Rosmah’s] humanitarian and charity work”, saying she was a “deserving recipient of BCIU’s award”.
Tichansky (source:
After Najib’s statement in Parliament, Tichansky did not answer why the BCIU would sign off the ad as “family and friends [of Rosmah] in USA and Malaysia” instead of representing itself in the ad. He also did not answer the question as to how the BCIU could represent Rosmah’s family and friends.
The NYT has declined to disclose how much the ad cost. However, according to some estimates, full-page ads taken out in the NYT suggests that the cost of such advertisements ranges from US$180,000 to US$230,000. This amounts to between RM580,000 and RM740,000 for a one-page ad.
The congratulatory ad for Rosmah which appeared on 16 April 2010 was a two-page colour spread that would have cost far more.
It remains unclear why a US-based business council would pay for such an ad.
“Joh”, the receptionist
Apart from the BCIU, another party that is apparently involved in the ad has also remained mum about unanswered questions arising from the ad and the NYT’s retraction.
Henry Thomas Jones of Laurus Group DC, a “small public relations firm”, sent an e-mail on 7 June accusing The Nut Graph of blowing up a “trivial matter” and being unprofessional.
The Nut Graph had written to Jones on 3 June to ask what his involvement in the award and the ad was after he had surprisingly copied us on an e-mail to Tichansky. In that e-mail, sent on 1 June, Jones had responded to Tichansky’s e-mail to us which defended Rosmah as the award recipient. Jones told Tichansky: “This is great. Thank you! Please send, and I’ll forward to Joh.”

Obama meets Najib (© Pete Souza, The White House | Flickr)
Obama meets Najib (© Pete Souza, The White House | Flickr)
The Nut Graph then wrote to Jones, who is known to have worked in a powerful lobbying company and is a seasoned political campaigner, to ask him if Laurus Group, DC was the one that ordered and paid for the ad congratulating Rosmah. We also asked if he was involved in lobbying for Najib’s meeting with President Barack Obama and for Rosmah to be conferred an award.
Additionally, we asked him who “Joh” was, and whether it was a particular individual whose name has been circulating among the New York-based media, and among local business and political circles. Jones did not reply.
However, after our 7 June report on the NYT’s mistake, Jones’s apparent involvement, and the mysterious “Joh”, Jones wrote a scathing e-mail that said:
“‘Joh’ … is my receptionist, Jo. When typing on the iPhone, it is not uncommon for me to misspell words. In this instance, I added an ‘h’. My firm provides occasional PRO BONO services to the Business Council for International Understanding.
“It is unfortunate that such a trivial matter, a misspelling in an internal communication, gives rise for your publication to generate unsubstantiated allegations, and then to publish the same. From an American perspective, I find The Nut Graph‘s standards for publication to be less than professional.”
Despite being asked to clarify in an e-mail we sent on 8 June, Jones did not reveal his receptionist’s full name and contact details. He also did not explain why a receptionist in his firm would need to be copied on a correspondence between him and his client.
He did not specify what about The Nut Graph’s reporting on 7 June constituted “unsubstantiated allegations”.
New York party
Robert De Niro (© Petr Novák| Wiki Commons)
Apart from the NYT ad, Rosmah and Najib were also feted on 16 April at the five-star St Regis Hotel in New York where the award ceremony was held.
The star-studded event was emceed by Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx and attended by Hollywood glitterati including Oscar-winning Robert De Niro and Charlize Theron, and Emmy Rossum. Performances by Grammy-award nominee Leona Lewis, and the Harlem Boys Choir were also held. A rendition of We Are the World led by Foxx and sung by De Niro, Theron and others ended the night.
Various blog postings and Tweets on the event talk about how well Foxx warmed the party up. One blogger, who attended the event, wrote that Foxx performed a “flirty” karaoke version of You’ve Got a Friend with Rosmah, and danced with Najib.
CBS News reporter Kaylee Hartung also tweeted and posted photos of the event saying: “When has a foreign dignitary been honored in this way? Amazing. Jamie Foxx has [the] whole room on their feet.”
According to one Twitter posting by a DJ, known as DJ Irie, who parties with Hollywood stars, Foxx and Rosmah rehearsed for their duet before the party.
According to online reports, the party was co-hosted by BCIU and the United States Sports Academy. No information was available about how much the entire event cost.

Serangan Pengganas: Agenda Politik Jahat UMNO

Dari Harakah Daily

Naib Presiden PAS, Datuk Mahfuz Omar (gambar) berkata, kenyataan mengenai serangan pengganas menunjukkan satu pakatan politik jahat antara Umno Barisan Nasional (BN) dan polis untuk menimbulkan ketakutan dan kemarahan masyarakat bukan Islam terhadap Islam dan kumpulan kumpulan Islam.

Justeru, katanya PAS sangat kesal dengan kenyataan Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Musa Hassan kononnya akan ada serangan kumpulan pengganas ke atas rumah kuil Batu Caves dan kuil Kuan Yin Air Itam.

Ini, katanya sekaligus secara halus untuk menjauhkan masyarakat bukan Islam daripada PAS yang merupa parti politik Islam yang mendapat tempat di kalangan masyarakat bukan Islam.

“Inilah kebimbangan yang menghantui Umno bila PAS secara terbuka menyatakan pada rakyat tentang gerakan persediaan PAS bersama Pakatan Rakyat (PR) mengambil alih Putrajaya,” ujarnya dalam satu kenyataan.

Baginya, Umno mengharapkan bantuan Musa Hassan serta Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) bagi melindungi kepentingan kuasa politik mereka daripada gerakan PAS untuk ke Putrajaya bersama PR bagi membawa perubahan ke arah Malaysia baru yang lebih maju.

Beliau yang juga Ahli Parlimen Pokok Sena berkata, bagi Umno isu serangan pengganas adalah antara talian hayat terakhir parti itu.

Katanya, kenyataan Musa juga sudah pasti akan disusuli dengan penahanan di bawah ISA ke atas induvidu yang tidak akan dapat dibuktikan sebarang bentuk pengakuan yang bakal diskrip dramakan untuk tujuan politik murahan Umno.

“Tindakan ini sama seperti isu provokasi kalimah Allah bila mana Umno cuba menampil diri sebagai juara mempertahan Islam dalam usaha terdesak untuk mendapatkan kembali sokongan orang Melayu Islam pada Umno,” ujarnya lagi.

Isu tersebut berakhir, katanya dengan pembakaran gereja dan surau untuk menimbulkan ketegangan dan menakutkan rakyat.

Menurutnya, semua itu berlaku hasil dari provokasi jahat Umno, tetapi ternyata rakyat mengambil tindakan bijaksana dalam isu kalimah Allah dengan menolak provokasi jahat Umno.

“Kini sekali lagi Umno BN cuba membawa pendekatan lapuk yang dirangka oleh Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN) puluhan tahun lalu untuk menakutkan rakyat dengan isu-isu keselamatan dan pembanggunan (Kesban),” katanya.

Beliau menambah, ternyata Umno masih tidak berubah dalam usaha mempertahankan kuasa sedangkan pemikiran rakyat sudah berganjak jauh meninggalkan Umno.

Katanya, rakyat meminta integriti, demokrasi dan reformasi dalam urustadbir negara tetapi Umno BN membawa pendekatan autokrasi dan kuku besi.

Justeru, ujarnya rakyat perlu menghentikan perbuatan Umno mengadu dombakan rakyat pelbagai kaum dan agama sebaliknya mesti menunjuk jalan keluar kepada Umno untuk meninggalkan politik negara untuk diurus tadbir oleh PR bagi membawa pembaharuan untuk negara dan rakyat yang lebih sejahtera.

A Sarawak Chieftain's Vast Canadian Fortune

ImageChief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud's property portfolio

(ASIA SENTINEL) The Sarawak Project, an NGO based in the East Malaysian state, has done an exhaustive study of the property holdings controlled by Abdul Taib Mahmud, who as long-serving chief minister controls an enormous empire of natural resources that for decades has allegedly gone to serve his family's interests rather than the state's. In the wake of an opposition victory in the town of Sibu in May, Taib for the first time faces the real possibility he could be defeated in the state election which must be held before the end of 2011.

Twin glass towers and a swish shopping complex at Preston Square in downtown Ottawa form just part of an enormous foreign property portfolio controlled in Canada by the family of Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, according to our exclusive investigations.

These buildings alone are worth at least one hundred million dollars and generate a healthy rental income from some of Canada's top corporations, including Xerox, Adobe and Sun Life, who rent office space and retail outlets. Numerous Canadian Government Ministries are also listed at the building.

 Preston Square Ottawa – office space and shops
The Preston Square development lies at the centre of the major Canadian property empire run by the developer Sakto, which was founded in the early 1980s by Taib's college-aged son Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, his daughter Jamilah and his brother Onn Mahmud. It continues to be managed as a 'family business' by his now son-in-law, a Canadian, Sean Murray.

Taxpayers in Sarawak are entitled to ask how the Chief Minister's modest RM20,000 (US$6,230) monthly official salary has managed to help generate a property empire worth so much. It is also well known that the Taib family own further considerable assets in Malaysia and elsewhere.

Dozens more buildings in Canada alone
Adjacent to the Preston Square commercial complex, Sarawak Report has further identified a luxury, multi-story residential building, also constructed by the Taibs and let for rent since 2006. The family named the building The Adelaide, an Australian city popular with Taib Mahmud and his late wife Laila.

 The Adelaide (left)
Sakto publicity boasts that these "stylish urban rentals are lavishly equipped" with "all the elements of contemporary flair" and assure clients that "all units share the ease of abundant parking and the beauty of Preston's Square manicured setting".

Arrogant Admission

We bring these revelations in the wake of the elderly Chief Minister's admission last week that the Bumi remain "poor and in difficulty". In this way, he explained, they can be relied upon to stay "humble" and continue to vote for Barisan National (BN) at the next election. Many in Sarawak have questioned why the Chief Minister has done so little to improve the lives of his people during his 30 years in power and where the profits of decades of timber and oil extraction have been spent. Sarawak is Malaysia's richest state in terms of natural resources and yet remains home to some of its poorest people.

Sakto Development Corporation was set up in August 1983, according to official Ontario records, two years after Taib Mahmud took power. The Directors were Taib's brother, Onn Mahmud, Taib's son Mahmud Abu Bekir (aged just 20) and Taib's daughter Jamilah, both still students. Three months later Onn also established Richfold Investment Limited in Hong Kong. He did so on the same day that another company, Regent Star Company Limited, was incorporated with a mutual director, Kin Kwok Shea, at the same office address. It was Regent Star Company which was identified by the Japanese Tax Authorities in 2007 as having received RM32 million in kickbacks from Japanese timber exporters over the preceding seven years covered by their investigation. The Japanese shipping cartel is known to have been making such payments since the early 1980s, amounting to a total of hundreds of millions of ringgit.

Impressive Investments

Sakto publicity claimed the company invested heavily in its first year(1983), "acquiring over 400 residential units" according to its previous website.

 Taib residential property
Financial records also show that the company invested over C$7 million during the first 12 months of its activities, C$4.5 million of which was raised from its shareholders. In Canada shareholders are allowed to remain anonymous. By the end of its first decade (in 1993) Sakto's Financial Report shows the company had assets of just under C$40 million. Those acquisitions were backed by over $25 million in interest-free shareholder loans, for which "repayment terms had not been established". Additionally, Sakto received a further C$3 million in non-interest bearing loans, C$1.5 million of which was "payable to a company related to a shareholder". Among the developments Sakto invested in was the construction of what the company described as a "Class A Office Tower", completed on schedule and within budget in November 1989. Known as 333 Preston Street, this building houses the company's current headquarters. In all but one of those years the company was declaring a loss and not paying taxes.

 Aquired in 2000 - Government Offices
During the 1990s, the company claims it "continued shaping [its] property portfolio through acquisitions and disposals of various assets" and since 2000 has been involved in some of Ottawa's biggest property deals. These included the purchase of over a quarter of a million square feet of commercial space in the flourishing high-tech business district of Kanata and other buildings for over C$31 million. Much of this property was later sold on to a 'nominee' company, however Sakto continues to lease and manage the buildings, apparently on behalf of the new purchasers.

The company has recently completed the building of a second phase of its Preston Street Commerce Plaza complex, which includes a second 16 story tower block and a large commercial center. The Sakto website boasts that the centre represents "the very definition of Class A business space."

Sean Murray, the current Director of Sakto, is a Canadian of Irish Catholic extraction. Records show he became involved in Sakto's affairs in 1987, having reportedly met Jamilah Taib at University. After marrying Jamilah, a process that involved his conversion to Islam, Murray took over as a director of a number of the Taib property interests, although there is no indication that he has become an actual shareholder. Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib ceased to be listed as a director of Sakto some years ago, however Onn Mahmud, Taib's brother only resigned as a director in 2004.

 Commercial Plaza Expansion
At age 23 Jamilah Taib became Director of Sakto Development Corporation (between studies) then President

Society Family

A number of Murray's family members are now employed at Sakto, which they describe as a family business. Some of Canada's biggest commercial names rent space at their commercial and office properties, as well as numerous Canadian government ministries. Now prominent members of Ottawa's social elite, Sean Murray and Jamilah Taib are frequently photographed at society occasions and listed as donors to the city's National Gallery of Canada. Functions at their lavish Rockcliffe mansion have included fundraisers for the top Canadian school, Ashbury College and for multiple Irish charities, including the Catholic St Patrick's Home and the Ireland Fund of Canada.
The couple drew considerable attention when they recently moved into their new house, recorded as being the second most expensive private home in Ottawa and costing them over C$9.6 million. Guests have been known to joke that it is so vast that different wings must have different post codes.

Political Connections

 Sean and Jamilah - Ottawa's Golden Couple
The couple, separately and through Sakto, have also been regular donors to the Ontario Liberal Party. This has included contributions totaling C$6,000 to Premiere Dalton Mcguinty's campaign budget in 2003. In 2007 it was announced that 11 Ontario Ministries were relocating into Sakto's Preston Square building. "Bringing together 11 ministries at Preston Square, in the heart of our community, will make our government more accessible to the people of Ottawa and more cost-effective", explained Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre. The offices were officially opened by Dalton Mcguinty himself in April 2008.

From trees to tower blocks

Sarawak Report's exclusive revelations are likely to draw fierce criticism from Canadian environmentalists and human rights campaigners, who have highlighted the devastation caused by unsustainable logging in Sarawak. Over US$25 billion worth of timber has been exported from the state as a result of the rampant, unsustainable logging promoted by Taib Mahmud and the former Chief Minister, who was his uncle. Less than 3 percent of the original rainforest remains and many of its indigenous peoples are now destitute as a direct result.

What is now clear is that Sakto's position as one of Canada's top development companies is closely linked to the Taib family's questionable wealth and to tropical rainforest devastation. Canada's booming property market of past years has exponentially increased the value of those investments, leaving the Taibs (but not the people of Sarawak) even more fabulously wealthy than before.

Melayu Bangkit, Cerdek, And Celek!

(Malays Awake, Smart, and Eyes Open!)
By M. Bakri Musa

It is commendable that Gertak, the Malay NGO, would have as its mission Melayu Bangkit (to awaken Malays). It should go further and ensure that we Malays are also cerdek (smart), and celek! (eyes wide open!) That would ensure that we would not be forever pelek (puzzled), unable to comprehend events around us and be left behind.

It is not enough for Malays to be awake, for if we still keep our eyes closed (even if we close only one eye!), then we might as well go back to sleep. At least then we could benefit from its recuperative powers. And if we are awake and have our eyes wide open but we remain dumb (not cerdek), that would be no improvement either.

Once we are bangkit, cerdik and celek, only then would Ketuanan Melayu be a reality, and not as now, merely a hollow slogan. Then Article 153 of our constitution would no longer be contentious as it would be of interest only to historians, as its provisions would have become irrelevant.

Now that would be a worthy goal! At least one worth shouting about!

Predictable Behavior

The Melayu Bangkit organizers’ choice of the keynote speaker at their “massive” rally in Kuala Trengganu on June 14, 2010 was revealing. If Mahathir could not awaken Malays when he ruled the country for 22 years and had all the powers of the state at his disposal, there is little hope that he could do so now when he is so much older and without power, especially the power to bestow favors.

The behaviors of those leaders were predictable, culturally. They hewed closely to our aphorism, Bila hilang aleh ka pangkal (When you are lost, revert to the source).

Malays today are at a crossroad; we are lost. However, instead of bravely assessing the choices and moving forward on a course that would best meet those challenges, we have retreated in the hope of reaching the starting point and beginning afresh. That is, to reboot, in computer language.

Alas there is no reboot or reset button. What we should do instead is extract the wisdom of our culture that had stood us well in our daily kampong life and apply that to our current predicament. Those pithy, catchy sayings are just that; they do not help us comprehend our problems, much less solve them.

If we reflect on our days back in the belukar (jungle), when we were lost we would move on, hacking the path forward as best as we could determine. There was no turning back for we knew that the path back would have been overgrown. We would just as likely to get lost in going back as in going forward.

By choosing Mahathir, Gertak leaders were going back. They were clearly counting on him to be the big draw. Just as obvious, they did not have the confidence in the pulling power of their own ideals and mission.

They were half right. They were wrong in thinking that Mahathir would bring in the crowd, but they were right in that they could not sell their ideas, not even in the heartland of Malays.

There are two ways at looking at the poor attendance. One is that Malays were still tidor (asleep), literally, what with the World Cup soccer series going on. If we were not asleep literally, then perhaps we were figuratively. After all it was not that too long ago when we were being led by that sultan of slumber, Abdullah Badawi. Perhaps we have not yet awakened to the fact that the nation now has a new leader. Or it could be that our new leader is no different from the old sleepy head he replaced.

To me, the low attendance was due to more practical reasons. It was a Monday, a working day, and those Malays, like other Malaysians, were busy working. What with the government withdrawing subsidies for such essentials as sugar and cooking oil, Malaysians have to work doubly hard. They do not have time much less inclination to listen to frustrated politicians ventilating. The rakyats are fed up with hot and foul air; the country is sweltering and fetid enough already. Besides, they have heard those promises before.

To the organizers however, Monday is no different from any other day. Being from the rent-seeking class, they do not have to work and thus have plenty of time for berseminar and berkongress.

Contrary to the perception of those Melayu Bangkit boys, we Malays have not been asleep. We have been alert and awake, with our eyes wide open. It is just that we do not like what we have been hearing or seeing.

Mahathir must have an inflated sense of his influence post-retirement, especially after his success in bringing down his successor. I do give him credit in breaking down our taboo of criticizing leaders. However, before he crows or claims credit for Abdullah’s downfall, we need to remind Mahathir that Abdullah was no great trophy. To claim credit would be akin to the weekend hunter bragging of his shooting prowess on bringing down a lame caged kancil (mouse deer). Abdullah would have stumbled anyway, on his own lameness.

It was pathetic to see Mahathir frittering away his still considerable reservoir of goodwill, and soiling the prestige of his former office by associating with the lunatic fringe of Malay extremists and losers. Surely it would not be too difficult for him to find a more select audience to exercise his intellectual and other faculties.

It was also disappointing to see a former prime minister and once the leader of all Malaysians indulging in the same old tired “us” versus “them” rhetoric. Mahathir lamented that while Malays constitute the majority, our political power is divided, with Malays now also supporting PAS and Keadilan. Yes, there was a time when UMNO and Malays were synonymous. What did we get for that? An arrogant, rent-seeking class – the UMNOPutras – grown glutton on the nation’s riches which they think belong to them, and only to them. They are the ones now presuming to “lead” us.

These are not the leaders who will take us to the Promised Land. Judging from the abysmal attendance at the rally, the average Malay is also very much aware of that.

Granting Us Our Merdeka

If these leaders are truly interested in awakening and liberating Malays, in short, granting us our merdeka, then I suggest they focus on two critical areas: education and information.

Good education means equipping us with the necessary language and mathematical skills, as well as the capacity for critical thinking. Make us cerdek! Giving good education is like waking us up (bangkit) and then lighting the pelita (candle). With us now wide awake, the candle would lift the darkness, and with our eyes wide open (celek), we could then find our way out.

You can tell much about a society and predict its future by looking at the schools. When I look at our national schools, especially those in rural areas catering to Malays, I need not bother with the national statistics to tell me about the fate of our people. Yet in those “kongresses” I hear little on how to improve our schools or enhance the educational achievements of our people.

Instead what are often recommended would result in the closing of Malay minds, as with discouraging our young from learning English, deeming it to be the language of oppressors.

Superior education alone is not sufficient, for if we close the world on our people we would succeed only in creating the worse possible combination: a mass of highly educated but deeply frustrated citizens. That would not be good for the ruler or the ruled.

Removing censorship would go a long way in opening the world of ideas to our people. We should do away with such archaic practices as banning books and requiring special permits for publications. Nor should we restrict who can preach our faith. Such restrictions are futile in this digital age. Nations can no more control the flow of information then they could of air.

In this regard I applaud Mahathir’s decision not to sue his critics. Leaders should be willing to accept criticisms, even blatantly unfair ones. Leaders should not abuse the court system to intimidate or silence their critics. Likewise, I applaud UMNO Youth’s Khairy in calling for repeal of the Printing Press Act. My only regret is that he did not pursue that when he had access to the highest power in the land.

The Melayu Bangkit folks should influence us through their ideas, not threats, intimidations, or gertak. Impress us with the brilliance of your brain and the innovativeness of your ideas.

I have been trying to get copies of the papers presented at this and earlier seminars but to no avail. Those presenters are not proud of or keen to have their ideas disseminated. The organizers should have at the very least videotaped the proceedings and posted them on the Web for a wider audience; likewise with their papers. Those folks should not be content only with submitting those ideas “to the authorities.” God knows, that had been done umpteen times before, and we know what the results were.

We should demand more of our leaders beyond their shouting of old slogans, resurrecting of phantom enemies, or fantasizing the good old days under the coconut tree. For them to be leaders, they must first be bangkit, cerdek, and celek. We have no wish to be led by Pak Tidor (Sleepy head), Si Bodoh (Moron), or Mek Mato Tup Soboleh (The one-eyed).

Brazil put Elephants in the shade

Elano of Brazil (L) celebrates scoring his team's third goal
Brazil booked their place in the Round of 16 with a game to spare after a convincing 3-1 victory over Côte d’Ivoire at Soccer City.

Two goals from Luis Fabiano and a third by Elano secured the second victory for Dunga’s side in South Africa – a result that guaranteed them one of the top two places in Group G even before Portugal’s meeting with Korea DPR on Monday. It was not all good news for the South Americans, though, who finished the game with ten men after Kaka received a late red card after a clash with Kader Keita. It was Kaka’s second yellow card and came after the Brazilian appeared to dig an elbow into the chest of Keita, who went down clutching his face.

For Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Elephants, this was a sobering evening despite Didier Drogba’s late headed reply. Although Drogba was fit to start his first game of this FIFA World Cup, Côte d’Ivoire did not trouble Brazil’s back line until it was too late and they will now go into their final group game against the North Koreans on Friday with just one point to their name.

This much-anticipated meeting of the five-time world champions and Drogba’s Elephants – seen by some as potentially Africa’s biggest hope at the finals – began with a shooting opportunity for the Seleção inside the first 60 seconds as Robinho broke forward. But, ignoring the yellow shirts on either side of him, he flashed a shot over the crossbar from outside the box.

Robinho had a hand in the opening goal after 25 minutes, his lovely interplay with Kaka preceding the latter’s through-ball to Luis Fabiano which left the Brazil No9 clear to lash a spectacular shot high inside the near post. The Elephants had managed only one shot on target in their goalless draw with Portugal but after 38 minutes Aruna Dindane tried his luck from distance, albeit his driven shot went straight at Julio Cesar.

Within five minutes of the restart, Brazil had their second goal as Luis Fabiano struck again. After weaving his way between three green and white shirts, the Sevilla man beat Boubacar Barry with a strong shot inside his near post. The Ivorians came close to a response soon after only for Drogba to steer a header wide of Julio Cesar’s left-hand post after rising between Maicon and Lucio to meet Dindane’s centre from the right. That would be Dindane’s final contribution as he made way for

Gervinho yet the force remained with Brazil. Kaka had a shot beaten away by Barry in the 61st minute but within 60 seconds he had created the third goal for Elano. The Real Madrid playmaker broke down the left and running at Kolo Toure, found the space to drill in a low cross that Elano turned home for his second goal of the finals. Saldy for Elano that was his final contribution as, soon after, he took a kick on the shin from Ismael Tiote and left the field on a stretcher.

Julio Cesar was finally called into meaningful action when Ivorian substitute Romaric drove in a low shot that the Brazil custodian got down low to block. Eleven minutes from time, however, Drogba did restore a measure of pride for the Elephants when, following Gervinho’s lung-bursting forward run, the substitute laid the ball back to Yaya Toure whose precise cross was nodded home by the Chelsea striker. That was the end of the scoring, although for Kaka, the night did not end as he would have wished as tempers flared in the closing minutes.

Italy humbled by All Whites

Tony Lochhead of New Zealand slides into a challenge on Gianluca Gianluca Zambrotta of Italy

New Zealand caused South Africa 2010's biggest upset thus far by holding world champions Italy to a 1-1 draw at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium. In the end, only a Vincenzo Iaquinta penalty prevented Marcello Lippi's Azzurri dropping all three points as the All Whites, who took an early lead through Shane Smeltz, produced a courageous and intelligent performance to earn their second FIFA World Cup™ point.

Faced with a side ranked 74 places above them, New Zealand might have been expected to park the proverbial bus in front of Mark Paston's goal. In fact, the opposite was true. Evidently deciding that attack represented the best form of defence, coach Ricki Herbert fielded three strikers in an adventurous line-up, and was rewarded for his boldness with the opening goal inside seven minutes. New Zealand benefited from some distinctly un-Italian defending with the Azzurri rearguard left in chaos by an inswinging Simon Elliot free-kick. The most notable culprit was Fabio Cannavaro, who inadvertently cushioned the ball into the path of a grateful Smeltz. From four yards out, all the New Zealand No9 had to do was poke the ball under the diving Federico Marchetti.

In a tournament full of upsets, it looked at this stage that a truly momentous shock was on the cards, but an Italian response was not long in arriving. They should have been level after 16 minutes, in fact, after Cannavaro knocked down Simone Pepe's corner for the well-positioned Giorgio Chiellini, but the Juventus centre-half provided a typical defender’s finish, smashing the ball out for a throw-in on the far side.

Italy were taking a stranglehold on possession, however, and after Gianluca Zambrotta just missed out on finding the top corner from 25 yards, Riccardo Montolivo went closer still, bending a superb effort around the statuesque Paston only to see the ball rebound to safety off the inside of the post. The Azzurri players must have wondered at this stage if this simply was not going to be their day, but their luck was to change after 28 minutes when Tommy Smith was penalised for pulling down Daniele De Rossi in the box. Iaquinta stepped up to take the resultant penalty and level the scores with a perfect spot-kick low to the left of the wrong-footed Paston.

Italy might have hauled themselves level, but Lippi remained unhappy enough to make a double substitution at half-time that saw Antonio Di Natale and Mauro Camoranesi enter the fray. The former, a prolific scorer in Serie A this season, nearly made an instant impact, firing in an imaginative right-foot volley that Paston could only parry clear. However, Lippi will have been hugely concerned at the relative ease with which New Zealand continued to hold his side at bay, and substitute Chris Wood came within a whisker of winning it for the Kiwis in the closing stages with a left-foot shot that slipped inches wide. Herbert's side were certainly well worthy of a share of the spoils, and go into their final match against Paraguay with everything still to play for in Group F.

Paraguay too strong for Slovakia

Cristian Riveros of Paraguay (R) celebrates scoring

Paraguay claimed their first 2010 FIFA World Cup™ victory by beating Slovakia 2-0 on Sunday in Mangaung/Bloemfontein. Top of the Group F table with four points – at least until Italy take on New Zealand later in the day – the Paraguayans got a goal in each half at the Free State Stadium through Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros.

The South Americans controlled the contest right from the start, and they might have opened their account in the early going when Roque Santa Cruz's shot took a tricky deflection towards goal but Slovakia goalkeeper Jan Mucha was up to the task, diving well to save in the top-right corner. Riveros and Lucas Barrios then had good opportunities to confirm Paraguay's dominance. After 19 minutes Riveros had time and space for a shot from 20 yards out but his effort went straight at the keeper. Four minutes later Barrios blasted over after some fancy combination play with Vera.

Paraguay's breakthrough came after 27 minutes following a Slovakian give-away in defence. Paulo Da Silva strode forward menacingly and his pass split the defence to find Vera. With two defenders around him, the Ecuador-based midfielder finished coolly with the outside of his right boot around the despairing goalkeeper. At the other end, Slovakia's only real chance of note fell to Kornel Salata, who could not keep his free header down from a corner. Indeed Santa Cruz might have doubled the lead except for a fine save with his feet by Mucha in the 39th minute.

With only one attempt on goal in the first half, Vladimir Weiss's side came out more aggressively in the second period, but Paraguay's organised back line contained them. The Europeans very rarely even threatened to equalise, and Vera should have claimed a second goal when Santa Cruz picked him out all alone in the area in the 72nd minute, but his header bounded wide to the goalkeeper's right.

Instead it fell to Riveros to settle the encounter four minutes from time with a curling left-foot shot from the edge of the area. Slovakia will now hope to resurrect their South Africa 2010 campaign against Italy at Johannesburg's Ellis Park on Thursday, while Gerardo Martino's Paraguay take on New Zealand at the same time in Polokwane.

Deadly blasts target Iraq bank

Many of the victims of Sunday's twin bomb blasts in Baghdad were women [AFP]
Two car bombs have exploded outside the headquarters of the Trade Bank of Iraq in Baghdad, killing at least 26 people and injuring 53 others, security officials have said.
The near-simultaneous blasts occurred shortly after 11am [0830 GMT] on Sunday in the Yarmouk neighbourhood in western Baghdad.
There are conflicting reports about whether the bombs were planted in parked cars or driven by suicide bombers. Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi army, said the attack involved two suicide bombers in cars.
But Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, said there were reports that the bombs were actually planted in parked cars outside the bank.
It's also unclear whether the attack was carried out by anti-government fighters, or whether the bombings were part of an attempted robbery.
A source from the bank told the Reuters news agency that several bank guards were killed in the blasts and the building was badly damaged.
One of the two bombs exploded near an office of Iraq's interior ministry where Iraqis apply for their national ID cards. Many of the victims were women, according to the Iraqi army.
Heavily guarded area
The Yarmouk district is not far from Baghdad's heavily-guarded Green Zone.
Our correspondent said the location of the attack would be viewed as another sign that the Iraqi army and police are struggling to provide basic security.
"If you walk 150 metres, you will have an Iraqi army checkpoint there," he said. "So it's kind of a blow to the security forces."
The bank is one of the public sector's most active financial institutions and has been working to encourage foreign investment in Iraq.
Banks have become frequent targets for both criminals and fighters in recent months. A June 13 raid on Iraq's central bank killed 15 people which the security forces blamed on the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And gunmen stole $6.5m from a Baghdad bank last summer.
Sunday's bombings occurred after a string of attacks in the capital on Saturday evening.

Pudu jail demolition gets negative public response

When the clock strikes 10pm tomorrow, the 394-metre stretch of Pudu Jail wall fronting Jalan Pudu will be demolished after having served its purpose for the past 100 years.
pudu jail prison 290508Construction on the 4.5 metre wall, also known as Pudu Goal, started in 1891 on Jalan Hang Tuah and it was fully completed in 1895 at a cost of RM15,360.90.
The wall which had once set a record for the longest mural in the world (384 metres) now has no meaning as it stands amidst flourishing development in the Bukit Bintang Golden Triangle.
The prison itself stopped operating in 1996 and prisoners were shifted to the Sungai Buloh Prison, 36km from here, after the building could no longer cater to the high volume of up to 6,550 people at a time since 1985.
The memories linked to the historic landmark will remain part of the country's history even after the wall is torn down, a move proposed by Kuala Lumpur mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail, which aimed to ease traffic congestion in the area through a road-widening project including the construction of an underpass.
NONEA check by Bernama revealed soil levelling works on the prison premises completed and awaiting demolition of the wall tomorrow night, which has received negative reaction from those who know the building's historical value and uniqueness.
Prabu Munusamy, 32, expressed his disappointment on the move, saying the prison complex could be a valuable tourist attraction.
He said although the building had housed criminals, it should be preserved for its own unique values.
"This prison has even held several prominent convicts and until today the public still come by to see and take photos there," he said.
'Enough with development'
Fifty-two-year-old Chew Chong Huai said he was saddened to know a building with such historical value, which should be made a heritage site, would be torn down.
"In other countries, like China for example, historical buildings would be kept and preserved as tourist attractions," he said.
Irwan Hashim, 32, also disagreed with the move to demolish the prison complex and wall, saying the city was already congested with development.
NONE"Enough with these developments. Kuala Lumpur is packed with buildings, shopping complexes and such, so let's not destroy whatever is left of our heritage," he said.
Meanwhile, a tourist from the Philippines, 49-year-old Farancisco B Lopez said the Pudu Prison should be preserved for tourism purposes like the Alcatraz prison in California, United States.
"It's a waste and pointless. I was told that this building is one of the historical sites in Malaysia because it was built in the 1800s during the British colonial era,” he added.
- Bernama