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Friday, August 6, 2010

Bkt Jalil crisis: PM hits the brakes on bulldozers

By B Nantha Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has instructed the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to postpone its demolition of houses in Bukit Jalil until an amicable solution is reached.

Yesterday, the former estate workers had submitted a memorandum to the PM's Office, asking for more time to consider the new offer from DBKL.

Contacted this afternoon, Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Deputy Minister M Saravanan confirmed the matter.

He said Najib, who is currently overseas, had called his boss Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin yesterday and told the minister to defer the demolition.

"We have been instructed to find a way to solve this issue first. The PM wants whatever is owed to the people to be settled first. DBKL is also postponing all notices it had sent to the 41 families.

"A meeting will be called next week. It will be attended by the workers' representatives, the National Union of Plantation Workers, Human Resources Ministry and my ministry,” he said.

"This meeting is to find a way to solve not only the housing problem but to ensure whatever owed to the people is paid accordingly. So far we have termed them as squatters. This will also be rectified. They are former estate workers and and not squatters," he told FMT.

Saravanan said previous meetings did not include his ministry, which is the enforcing body.

Unclear terms, bank loans

On July 20, the 41 families were slapped with an eviction notice. The deadline expired on Monday and demolition works were supposed to have started the next day.

The residents, however, vowed to put up a fight even if it meant facing the police's anti-riot personnel.

Following this, DBKL offered the residents a RM80,000 flat unit each for the discounted price of RM35,000 and gave them three-days to make a decision. This deadline expires on Friday midnight.

However, the workers contended that the terms of the offer were unclear and that they would face problems in obtaining bank loans to purchase the new houses.

They also wanted compensation, which was not paid to them by the new owner of the land, whose identity remains unknown although there were speculations of a former minister being involved.

DBKL has said that the land would be turned into a cemetary, which the residents claim is untrue.

Part of the estate was acquired by the government for the construction of the Bukit Jalil sports complex, while other parts were sold to private buyers.

The dilemma of the 41 families had gone on for nearly three decades now and most of the original estate workers had passed away and their place taken by their next of kin.

Anwar's appeal for clinical notes quashed

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today dismissed Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's bid to obtain the clinical notes from three Hospital Kuala Lumpur doctors who had examined Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The three-member panel, led by Justice Zaleha Zahari, held that the Kuala Lumpur High Court's ruling on the matter did not erode Anwar's rights.

“To the question by the appellant whether the ruling had deprived the accused of his rights... we have to answer in the negative,” she said.

The two other judges were Justices Abdul Malik Ishak and Clement Allan Skinner.

On June 18, the High Court rejected Anwar's application when Justice Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah ruled there was no provision or legal basis for such documents to be supplied.

The defence had also applied Saiful's medical history reports compiled by the three doctors, Dr Khairul Nizam Hassan, Dr Mohd Razali Ibrahim and Dr Siew Sheue Feng.

In addition, Anwar's lawyers want the prosecution to hand over the standard sexual assault equipment and kits used in the examination.

The defence also requested information pertaining to the qualification and experience of the three doctors for the reference of Australian forensic expert Dr David Wells.

Wells, who was hired by Anwar, said he would not be able to help the defence team without these reports.

Solicitor-general II Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden had argued that Anwar was not entitled to the medical reports as it did not deprive him of his rights.

He added that the prosecution did not intend to submit such documents as evidence, and the defence could ask the witnesses during cross-examination.

Anwar's trial is due to continue at the High Court next Monday.

Kedah Umno in search of a leader

By Zainal Epi

KUALA LUMPUR: Kedah is on the radar screen of the Barisan Nasional which is cranking up the election machinery to recapture the state. It feels the Pakatan Rakyat-ruled state is ripe for the picking.

It appears that BN leaders led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak are getting favourable feedback from the state BN leaders, especially division heads, on the situation there.

Najib would have also weighed the positive feedback given by the state liaison chief Shafie Apdal, a Sabahan who won the Umno vice-presidency in last year’s party election.

Parachuted into Kedah by the top party leaders, and in the process sidelining former menteri besar and Umno liaison chief Mahadzir Khalid, Shafie is not a new face in the state as he is married to the daughter of one of the state leaders.

But unfortunately, the situation in Kedah is rather grim. Although Shafie is a minister (of Rural and Regional Development), he seems to have no control of the 15 divisions in the state.

Kedah Umno is known for its “little warlords” -- division heads who call the shots when it comes to deciding who should be the leader and who to give the “cold shoulder” although the leader is chosen by the top party bosses.

Retaking Kedah is not impossible for BN but it can be an uphill task given that the division chiefs are not working in “tandem or cooperating” much with Shafie.

Ever since Shafie took over the reins last year, rumbles of discontent have been heard about him: many have complained that he seldom holds meeting and has often given the local leaders the short shrift if he doesn't like them.

Second fiddle

Besides, these “warlords” do not like playing second fiddle to Shafie whom many regard as an outsider who does not know the true situation on the ground.

There are also murmurs of disappointment over the appointment of Ahmad Basha Hanifah as the state deputy liaison chief. Many of the division chiefs do not look up to Ahmad Basha as their leader.

Some division chiefs have said that while Najib wanted to reunite and strengthen the state Umno, he had forgotten or ignored the true situation on the ground where division chiefs should be consulted before choosing a liaison head.

“Although it is the party president’s choice, at the very least he should know what he wants. Does he want to win the state back and allow the leader chosen to become the menteri besar or does he want to take the state back first and then start choosing who should be the menteri besar?” said a division chief.

“At present, the situation is serious as the division heads are split into three factions. Some are for Shafie, some support Mukhriz Dr Mahathir and some back Mahadzir.

“Given this scenario, unity is impossible. If there's disunity, how can the BN face its opponents in the next round?” he said.

“Although Mukhriz and Mahadzir tried hard to unite their supporters, things do not work out in that manner.

“Kedah Umno chiefs have their own minds. Look at former menteri besar Sanusi Junid. He was Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s man, and yet the warlords boycotted him,” the division chief added.

Rethink strategy

Kedah Umno is also cash-strapped. “The division chiefs try to fork out money from their own pockets, but they have little funds since they have no projects,” said a deputy division chief who is finding it difficult to conduct party activities with little or no funds.

“It is no point relying on patronage. Division chiefs need large infusion of funds to organise various activities. If they don't hold such activities, they will not be able to ‘touch base’ with its members or voters,” he added.

He said Kedah Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak (PAS-Sungai Lima) is not a good administrator and as a result, there are no major developments in store for the people.

However, he said it is not easy for BN to capitalise on Azizan's weak leadership because BN itself does not have the right leader to show the way in the next general election.

Another division chief said Najib must rethink his strategy. “If he wants to win the state, he has to choose someone from the state to lead and give him at least two years to earn the confidence of the division chiefs. Once unity is achieved, BN will stand a better chance of winning.

“If BN captures the state, the person chosen must be made the menteri besar,” he said.

Pakatan Rakyat may be in turmoil in Selangor but in Kedah, it is is strong. Kedah Umno needs to do a lot of spadework to stay fit enough to retake the state.

Education without wisdom

.By Stanley Koh

COMMENT The needlessly complex Malaysian education system has been drawing criticism and ridicule for decades. It deserves the bad press, for it produces curricula that bore students, it overworks teachers, it emphasises rote learning and downplays critical thinking, and it is geared towards producing citizens looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Still, this is not to say that everything about the system is bad. Perhaps, though, some things that are bad need not actually be.

Some say the system has just been plodding along with few meaningful modifications since it was inherited from the British.

Students are herded into barns masquerading as classrooms and are kept behind their desks for 10 to 15 years, learning what the authorities want them to learn. Little thought is given to dealing with individual needs and perhaps even less to encouraging individual creativity. Students are churned out like factory products to meet manpower needs in the demand and supply equation.

Everyone knows that education deserves all the attention it can get. That is probably why every new education minister wants new reforms and new approaches, as if students are guinea pigs.

The hard-hitting question should be: what good does the system do to our young? Is it enough that it should convert boys and girls into factory and office workers or, if they go through tertiary institutions, into bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, engineers, cyber troopers and other professionals?

Or should the system ensure that education, besides preparing citizens for gainful employment, also enables them to seek and recognise truth in all its manifestations?

Unfortunately that is a tall order.

Material world


Drug and chemical abuse, criminal misconduct and sexual irresponsibility have been increasing over the years.

Between 2000 and 2004, the number of juveniles in Malaysian prisons increased from 2,308 to 2,964. Statistics for 2005 showed that on average seven schoolchildren were arrested every day, three of them between the ages of 13 and 15.

According to the National Drug Agency’s statistics, 78.67% of drug abuse cases detected between January and December 2008 were users who had dropped out of school at age 15.

The situation has not improved.

Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief of the Observer, wrote in 2008:

“Families are mini-civilisations. Experience and research show they are the best means of rearing our young into fulfilled adulthood.”

He warned, however, that over-protective families could be like prisons that could deform young individuals for life.

In short, the debate continues over whether either or both the education and family systems have failed to guide children towards happy and fruitful lives.

“Money and material objects have become very important, often to the exclusion of social generosity and cooperation. Theoretical knowledge has become very important, often to the exclusion of adherence to religious beliefs.” This was the consensus of a 1997 forum audaciously advertised as the Future of Malaysia.

Cardinal virtue

When the family institution breaks down and moral values erode in a rapidly changing society, the first victims are naturally the young.

Unlike modern-day parents who disapprove of physical punishment of schoolchildren, our forefathers used to thank teachers for dispensing punishment for misbehaviour and indiscipline.

In ancient China, the purpose of sending children to school was to prepare them to be good human beings, if not to become saints and sages. It was not to pave for them the road to material fortune or vain fame.

Teaching them young was critical in ensuring that they grow into well-disciplined and virtuous citizens.

Many educationists and social workers today acknowledge that there is a fatal departure in modern society from the values that were held sacrosanct in the olden days.

“Yi dai bur u yi dai,” according to an old Chinese saying. Paraphrased, it means: each generation is worse than the one before it.

The fault in modern education can be summed up in another piece of folk wisdom: “shi nian shu mu, bai nian shu ren”— one can nurture a tree for 10 years, but it takes a hundred years to train a human being.

In ancient times, particularly during the heyday of Confucianism, Di Zi Gui was taught as part of the school curriculum. It was a guide to discipline and appropriate behaviour.

It was crucial to teach the young their role in the family and to guide them to be dutiful towards parents and teachers. Filial piety is a cardinal virtue in all traditional cultures.

According to the Di Zi Gui, “When my parents call me, I will answer them right away. When they ask me to do something, I will do it quickly.

“When my parents instruct me, I will listen respectfully. When they reproach me, I will accept their scolding and obey. I will try hard to change and improve myself, to start anew.”

What happens when the parents are wrong?

The forgotten guidance

The guide has an answer to this. “When my parents do wrong, I will ask them to change. I will do it with a kind expression and a warm gentle voice.

“If they do not accept my advice, I will wait until they are in a happier mood before I attempt to counsel them again, followed by crying, if necessary, to make them understand.

“If they end up whipping me, I will not hold a grudge against them.”

The guide also says: “When my parents are ill, I will taste the medicine first before giving it to them. I will take care of them night and day and stay by their bedside.”

The Confucian teachings also show the young the different ways of behaving towards younger siblings, towards older siblings, towards relatives, and towards friends.

Today’s debate on education overlooks the important objective of producing decent and upright human beings. It ignores what is common sense in Confucian thinking, “guo ren hen lan, guo hao ren ken lan,” which can be rendered as follows:

“If it is difficult to conduct oneself properly as a human being, imagine how difficult it is to be morally upright and virtuous.”

In truth, the role of education in modern times has lost sight of that glorious objective of providing a true guide to a happy life. When the family institution, as the smallest unit in a nation, gradually breaks down, society inevitably suffers.

What, then, is the price we are paying for this failure? The answer becomes obvious when we reflect upon the behaviour of the people who are supposed to be our leaders.

Attorney in stoning case seeks asylum as client awaits court decision

Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani faces death by stoning for allegedly commiting adultery. 


Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- A prominent human rights lawyer is sitting in a detention cell in Turkey as an Iranian court prepares to render a final decision -- possibly Thursday -- in the case of his client, Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani, who was sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery.

But Mohammad Mostafaei, who helped launch a worldwide campaign to clear Ashtiani, has much more on his mind. More than 1,000 miles away, his wife is in a cell too -- in Iran's notorious Evin prison.

"You know, I do not know what the future holds at the moment. Either the government of Turkey is going to report me back to Iran, or hopefully I can gain asylum in a third country," Mostafaei said in a CNN interview. "I am not sure what will happen to me."

However, a Turkish foreign ministry official told CNN Thursday that Mostafaei will not be extradited to Iran.

"As you know, he applied for asylum and within a day or two he will go to a country of his choice probably in Europe," the official said. "Norway is among the options. His extradition [to Iran] is out of the question."

Meanwhile, Iran again on Thursday lashed out at the international media for what it called the politicization of Ashtiani's case. Gholam Hossein Dehghani, a foreign ministry official attending a United Nations meeting in Switzerland, said Ashtiani was not only accused of adultery, but she had also been found guilty of conspiracy to murder her husband.

"The delegation was amazed at how journals had swayed the public opinion on this matter, but in Iran, anyone who murdered an innocent person could be subject to capital punishment," Dehghani said, according to minutes of the meeting.

Mostafaei went into hiding July 24 after a lengthy interrogation at Evin prison. The same day, rallies were being held worldwide to draw attention to Ashtiani's case.

His wife and brother-in-law were reportedly arrested that night at his office in Tehran as they tried to gather his belongings.

Iranian authorities told Mostafaei that his family would be detained until he turned himself in.

"I made a decision, after I saw that they were still going to arrest me and mistreat me, that I must leave Iran," he said. "It was a very hard decision."

Iranian authorities have since released Mostafaei's brother-in-law, but human rights groups said they are holding his wife as collateral until he returns.

"Once the authorities in Iran realize I have done nothing wrong or illegal, they will have no choice but to free my wife," he said. "She has also done nothing wrong. I am hoping for that outcome."

Mostafaei was being held Thursday at a detention center in Istanbul, Turkey, where he requested asylum, said Metin Corabatir, a representative in Turkey for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. He allegedly entered the country with improper documentation, the agency said.

It's a charge Mostafaei denies. He says his passport was his own and is valid. Mostafaei also said he has a Norwegian travel visa that he received from the embassy in Tehran some time ago.

Turkey does not require visas for citizens from neighboring Iran to enter the country. As a result, it is the first place hundreds of Iranians fled to after the Iranian government cracked down on opposition activists and critics over the past year.

Human rights groups are urging officials to grant Mostafaei's asylum request because they say he could be in grave danger if he is forced to return to Iran.

There is no word yet on whether any nation is willing to accept him.

Mostafaei said he met with officials from the Norwegian embassy on Tuesday. "They had me fill out political asylum forms so they could arrange for me to go to Norway," he said.

An official in the Norwegian embassy said Norway would not comment on a special asylum case.

"The sooner I can leave this country (Turkey) the sooner I think my wife will be freed," Mostafaei said. "The government of Turkey must act fast and help me with my case. The arrangements need to be made so I can leave Turkey and go to another country."

In a now widely-circulated open letter reportedly penned by Mostafaei and posted on the Internet, the lawyer accused Iranian authorities of holding his wife "hostage." He also explained why he made the painful choice to leave his wife behind.

"Despite the arrest of the person I love most in my life, I decided not to ever set foot in a judicial office where the interrogators do not abide by any basic laws," he wrote.

"Hostage taking is never legal," Mostafaei said. "I decided not to appear unless the interrogator's office tries hard enough to come and arrest me in my silo that I have built for myself."

Mostafaei was asked by CNN in early July if he was worried about his safety after bringing so much attention to Ashtiani, who was convicted of adultery in 2006 and condemned to die by the brutal method of stoning.

Mostafaei told CNN that he knew the risks -- he had been detained briefly after Iran's post-election turmoil in June 2009 -- but that would not stop him fighting for human rights. But it was that very fight that forced him to flee the country he calls home.

As part of that open letter, Mostafaei cried out to the Iranian government -- and to God -- for the strange twist in his fate.

"For the past few years all my thoughts have been towards saving people who did not deserve to die," he wrote. "I was so occupied with saving these people that I hardly got to see my dear wife and daughter. ... And for someone who has always worked towards justice and the interests of the Islamic Republic, is this the way I am paid back for my God-loving and human-loving actions?"

"I leave you and your interrogator at the mercy of God, the creator," he continued. "I hope that you won't let my child cry for her mother, not eating food and wanting her mother back. She needs to hug her mother. If through this separation from her mother she gets hurt, it's a sin that you have committed."

The Iranian government has not commented on the detention of Mostafaei's wife.

Meanwhile, Ashtiani's son and daughter visited her in prison Thursday, said Mina Ahadi, spokeswoman for the International Committee Against Stoning, who keeps in touch with Ashtiani's family. Ahadi said Iranian officials have told Ashtiani's son that he would receive news Thursday about his mother's fate.

Human rights activists are urging the international community not to forget Ashtiani, who may soon die -- or the man who tried to set her free.

Family to commit suicide if forced to Islam

Murugiah accepted as ordinary member by MIC

KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator T Murugiah was today officially accepted as an ordinary member by MIC. Murugiah, the former People's Progressive Party (PPP) Youth chief who was sacked, submitted his application form to MIC secretary-general T Rajagopalu at the MIC party headquarters here today.

Rajagopalu said Murugiah who was accepted as an ordinary member of Batu Matang branch in Bukit Gantang, Perak, had offered to bring along 10,000 new members, including his supporters from PPP.

He added that the decision to accept Murugiah was in line with Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional chairman Najib Tun Razak's wish to see MIC, as the biggest party for Indians in the country, to continue attracting new members.

"We always welcome new members because it will further strengthen the party and we can solve any issues related to the Indian community," he said.

Meanwhile, Murugiah also submitted a list of 65 new applications to join the Batu Matang branch.

According to Rajagopalu, Murugiah may be elected as the branch chairman after the list of applications are finalised.

- Bernama

After Ling, GAS wants Samy hauled to court

By Patrick Lee - Free Malaysia Today

SHAH ALAM: When former MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik was hauled to court recently, it sent a chill down many a powerful spine. Suddenly, the notion that some were above the law had been shattered.

Certain quarters saw it as an election gimmick, crafted to exhibit the government's seriouness in dealing with corruption without fear or favour.

Inspired by this, several former MIC leaders now want the party's long-term president S Samy Vellu to face the music for his alleged misdeeds as well.

Failing which, they warned: "If Samy Vellu is not brought to justice, then the federal government will have to pay the price... Pakatan Rakyat will win the next election."

With this in mind, the Gerakan Anti-Samy Vellu (GAS) movement leaders knocked on the door of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) state headquarters here this morning.

V Mugilan, KP Samy and G Kumar Amman, with some 50 supporters in tow, came armed with evidence of Samy Vellu's alleged abuses with regard to MIC's education arm, the Maju Institute of Education Development (MIED) funds.

Among them, the purchase of a Rolex watch worth RM22,700 and a gold chain as well as bracelet worth RM50,000.

Mugilan, the former MIC Youth deputy chief, was axed by Samy Vellu when he had called on the 74-year-old president of three decades to quit with immediate effect. KP Samy and Kumar, both former central working committee members, were given the boot for backing the call.

'Is Samy Vellu so powerful?'
Speaking to reporters after filing the report, KP Samy said: "Ling was charged because he caused losses to the government. Likewise, Samy Vellu brought losses to the Indian community."

"This is the first time we have come to MACC as the commission represents a new hope for us," he added.

Meanwhile, Mugilan expressed disappointment with the lack of action by enforcement agencies against the MIC boss in the past despite a litany of reports having been filed over the years.

"Is Samy Vellu so strong that the government cannot take any action (against him)?" he asked. "If Ling can be charged, why not Samy Vellu? Big guns can be charged... Samy Vellu is nothing."

The GAS leaders also promised to submit more evidence regarding Samy Vellu in the coming weeks.

Among the accusations made in today's report were that the MIC president had made rampant withdrawals from MIED accounts, and awarded contracts at inflated costs to many of his associates.

Mugilan also alleged that Samy Vellu had embezzled “huge amounts” of money from MIED, in his capacity as chairman, for his own interests.

According to the report, these allegations were made by former MIED CEO P Chithirakala Vasu in the Kuala Lumpur High Court last year.

'RM31 million for landscape contract'


As for the contracts, the report claimed that Samy Vellu had awarded the landscape contract for MIC's Aimst University to a company called Nova Blooms for a whopping RM27 million.

“The principal owner of Nova Blooms G Komathy is the classmate of one Rosaline from Ipoh who is a close associate of Samy Vellu. The initial contract was for RM27 million but on the insistence of Samy Vellu, a total of RM31 million was paid to Nova Blossoms till November 2008,” it said.

However, the report claimed that MIED had to fork out an additional RM2.2 million to complete the unfinished job by Nova Blooms using a third party contractor.

Apart from this, the report also alleged that the landscape maintenance work for Aimst University was awarded to Classic Sparkle Sdn Bhd.

“Roseline of Ipoh had signed as the managing director of Classic Sparkle in all coresspondence to MIED. To the best of our knowledge, Classic Sparkle is owned by Roseline. Her bodyguard by the name of R Kanappah is holding the shares in Classic Sparkle in trust for Roseline,” it said.

The report stated that the maintenance contract was first awarded to IT Sisma International Sdn Bhd for a sum of RM18,800 per month or RM225,600 per year.

“On the instructions of Samy Vellu, the contract with IT Sisma was prematurely terminated and the same contract was awarded to Classic Sparkle at RM50,000 per month. Subsequently, this was increased to RM56,300 per month,” it added.

Malaysia’s FDI plunge: Who’s taking it seriously?

By Ding Jo-Ann | 05 August 2010 | The Nut Graph
“Malaysia’s precipitous drop in inward foreign direct investments and an increase in outward foreign direct investments (FDI) mark a complete lack of confidence in Malaysia’s economy.
(Pic by duchessa / sxc.hu)
    1. For the first time ever in history, Malaysia attracted less investment than the Philippines.
    2. Compared to the previous year 2008, Malaysia suffered by far the biggest decline of FDI in Southeast Asia.
    3. Malaysia was the only country in Southeast Asia to have registered a net negative Foreign Direct Investment Flow.
    4  For the first time ever, cumulative Outward FDI Stock exceeded cumulative FDI Inward Stock.
    5. Barring a ‘blip’ in 2001 when we attracted only US$0.55 billion in FDI, this is the first time we’ve attracted less than US$2 billion in FDI over the past 20 years.”
DAP national publicity secretary and Petaling Jaya Utara Member of Parliament Tony Pua, in a 25 July 2010 press release. Pua was responding to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad)’s World Investment Report 2010. The Unctad report stated that FDI in Malaysia fell 81% from US$7.3 billion in 2008 to US$1.4 billion in 2009.
Pua said the drastic dip could not be brushed off as a one-off caused by the global financial crisis, but was part of a consistent decline in Malaysia’s competitiveness in recent years. The only other Southeast Asian countries with lower FDI than Malaysia in 2009 were Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei, Laos and Timor-Leste. (Source: Foreign Direct Investments: What Happened to Malaysia?, Pua’s media statement, 25 July 2010)
“It doesn’t mean that the net investment flow is lower, is necessarily bad.”
“Look at the quality of the investments and look at the facts in terms of the timing of investments.
“It could be some delays. It could be a big, lumpy Malaysian investment overseas that distorts the net number.”
CIMB group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, telling people not to jump to conclusions over the 81% plunge in FDI. Nazir, who is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s younger brother, said “huge” investments by CIMB and Maybank into Indonesia were possible factors that contributed to the lower net FDI figures. (Source: Nazir cautions against bashing low FDI figures, The Malaysian Insider, 26 July 2010)
“The second quarter will be good and the momentum seems to be good.
“We are expecting a single high digit growth for the second quarter.”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, expressing confidence that Malaysia was on target to achieve 6% gross domestic product (GDP) growth and high-income status by 2020. Nor Mohamed said there were strong indications of improvement in trade, import and export, and this would lead the country to achieve its target. (Source: Malaysia to register high single-digit growth in Q2: Nor Mohamed, mysinchew.com, 3 Aug 2010)
“[The government] has been totally misled by the double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2010. The government attributes this dramatic turnaround to its own policies, but the facts show the rebound was largely attributed to an export surge in the first quarter – a regional trend.
“The double-digit growth was also attributable to the low base value a year ago which will wear off in subsequent quarters.”
Malaysian Institute of Economic Research distinguished fellow, Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff, in an interview with The Nut Graph in June 2010. Ariff said there were indications that the government was in denial about the growth rates Malaysia could achieve in its 10th Malaysia Plan.
Ariff said the government had projected 6% GDP growth per annum on the assumption that private investment would grow at 12.8%. However, he said that from 2006 to 2009, the private investment growth rate was only 2%. (Source: Malaysia’s economic outlook: Will we make it?, The Nut Graph, 28 June 2010)
“If we were to bring those kinds of investments in, we will require more cheap foreign labour. We don’t want that kind of investments anymore.”
International Trade and Industry (Miti) Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, explaining that low-value-add and labour-intensive investments were headed where labour cost was cheaper because Malaysia no longer provided incentives for such investments.
He stressed that the ministry was not disputing the FDI data reported by Unctad, declaring the statistics “important” and “correct”. He said, however, that the figures alone did not constitute the whole picture.
Miti also said the sharp fall in FDI in 2009 was due to foreign companies not making additional investments in Malaysia. At the same time, these companies had repatriated profits made in Malaysia to their parent companies that were in the midst of a global recession. (Source: Mustapa: Miti taking proactive measures to attract FDIs, The Star, 29 July 2010)

Malaysia Cabinet Said Port Klang Loans Were Legal

Image(Malaysiakini) Exhaustive secret 2007 cabinet memo details approval of billions in loans for ill-starred port project

Malaysia's cabinet, according to a secret June 22, 2007 memorandum, retroactively approved the legality of billions of ringgit in supposedly illegal loans for the increased cost of development at the scandal-scarred Port Klang Free Zone for which a top Malaysian Chinese Association nonetheless has been charged with fraud.

Some websites first uploaded the memo, which Asia Sentinel obtained in translation, as the scandal grew in proportion starting last August. The memorandum is marked "Rahsia" or "Secret." Since cabinet documents come under Malaysia's stiff Official Security Act, passed in 1972, which allows for imprisonment up to 14 years for violating the statute, they have taken it down.

Ling Liong Sik, the 67-year-old former head of the MCA who retired in 2003, has been charged with deceiving the Malaysian cabinet in 2003 over the affair. Ling pleaded not guilty and was freed on RM1 million ringgit bail. Four other individuals have been arrested as well. In addition, sources in Kuala Lumpur say, Ling's successor as transport minister, Chan Kong Choy, an MCA deputy president, was at the center of issuing guarantee letters for bonds for the company building the massive port project before he left office in 2008, despite the fact that cabinet approval was required. There has been no indication yet that he would be charged, although sources in the United Malays National Organization, the leading component of the ruling national coalition, say others may well be pulled in.

Certainly, the 2007 cabinet memo is clear on Ling's actions, but appears to go along with them retrospectively:

"To finance development projects, bonds issued by Special Purpose Companies (Special Purpose Vehicle) which was created by [Kuala Dimensi, the entity given authority over the project]," the memo says. "The bonds have been given AAA rating and attracted the attention of many investors. It is because the previous YB Minister of Transport [Ling] issued a letter of support saying the government will at all times ensure that Port Klang Authority will meet all its obligations according to the duration and number of loans set."

The memorandum indicates that the cabinet knew most of the details about the vast cost overruns, giving a detailed description of the overages on Kuala Dimensi's part, which catapulted from RM 1.088 billion (US$343.05 million) RM 4.63 billion during the course of the project.

The port, whose ultimate cost could dwarf any of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's previous projects, was conceptualized by Mahathir as a multi-modal development modeled on the Jebal Ali free zone in Dubai , presumably capable of rivaling Singapore, whose efficiency and organizational expertise make it Southeast Asia's regional shipping hub:

"PFKZ has planned to attract foreign investors to Malaysia, to enhance national competitiveness and to make Port Klang as the main load in the region. This project will be a major catalyst in the development of economic activities and development in Pulau Indah," the memorandum says. However, Port Klang, hundreds of kilometers up Malaysia's west coast, is now being rivaled by the Iskandar Development Authority, better situated geographically, next to Singapore itself.

Unfortunately, in addition to the other problems, as Asia Sentinel reported on Aug. 24 and Nov. 27, 2009, the free zone project appears to have turned into a massive scandal, with politicians of all stripes helping themselves to vast amounts of money through artificially inflated land prices, contacts for surveyors and a myriad of other methods.

While the prevailing impression in Kuala Lumpur is that the country's leaders knew little or nothing about the port's development, the secret memo gives the impression that it was closely watched by top government leaders:

"A series of Cabinet meetings have been held since 1999 to consider the implementation of the project PKFZ especially in terms of land acquisition issues and financial allocations," the memo says. "The Ministry of Finance and the Department of the Attorney General have raised concerns about the financial need to be borne by the government and the status of land prices and land ownership issues involved with the project.

"On October 2, 2002, the Cabinet agreed to the purchase of land in Klang for PKFZ after having been informed that the project is viable without government financial assistance and legal issues of land had been settled. A review by the Department of the Attorney General regarding the issue of land acquisition was also presented."

After a lengthy description of the situation, the report concludes: "The Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister and the Ministry of Transport have no objection to the proposed retrospective approval for the increased cost of development projects PKFZ, Pulau Indah, Selangor and the provision of soft loans to the Port Klang Authority and the government guarantee in relation to the issuance of bonds by Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Ltd."

Significantly, the legality of the retroactive guarantee appears to have been approved by the attorney general, Abdul Ghani Patail as well: "The Department of the Attorney General has no such objections to the proposed terms of paragraph 19 of the Memorandum."

Ultimately, the guarantee of the RM4.63 billion led to potential liability to the Malaysian government of nearly triple that amount – RM12.45 billion if the Port Klang Authority defaults – which a report the port authority's own directors say is inevitable because the port can't generate enough revenue to meet the obligations.

The memorandum paints a comprehensive picture of the cabinet's involvement in the affair.

"Retrospective approval by the government would allow [Port Klang Authority] to remain actively involved in the development of the PKFZ," the report says. "PKA as a government statutory body cannot be left to become insolvent and the government guarantee should be given to maintain the confidence of investors on the bonds issued. Payment obligations to KDSB will start this year in monthly installments of RM510 million and additional allocation should be prepared for 2008 until 2010."

Who decided on the Cabinet gag order yesterday on any public discussion of “Allah” controversy?

Who decided on the Cabinet gag order on any public discussion of the “Allah” controversy announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin after the Cabinet meeting yesterday?

Was it with the full support of the four MCA Ministers and all other non-Muslim Cabinet Ministers – or did they express and register their protest and objection?

Malaysians had been told that the Cabinet operates on the principle of consensus – which means that if there is one Minister objecting, a decision on a new policy or measure would not be taken by the Cabinet.

If so, if the four MCA Ministers had spoken out against the gag order and asked the Cabinet to consider resolving the long-protracted “Allah” controversy by deciding that the Home Ministry should withdraw its appeal against the Lau Bee Lan judgment in the Kuala Lumpur High Court in January this year

which allowed the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its publication, Herald, the Cabinet would not have imposed a gag order as announced by Muhyiddin yesterday.

The UMNO stand on the “Allah” controversy is untenable and exposes the mockery of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia slogan and policy.

Even Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had criticized the Umno leadership for failing to provide leadership in the “Allah” controversy, asking why Umno is “digging itself into an intolerant hardline position that has no parallel that I know of in the Muslim world” when PAS is holding onto the “more plural and moderate position”.

It is all the more pertinent that the four MCA Ministers declare whether they had acted yesterday to oppose the Cabinet gag as the MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek had publicly said yesterday that the MCA Ministers had been instructed to speak up on the resolution of the “Allah” controversy.

As Najib was absent in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, would the MCA Ministers re-open the subject at next week’s Cabinet meeting when the Prime Minister returns from his overseas leave?

Anwar's Sodomy Case: Malaysia Will Not Bow To Pressure, Says DPM

SUNGAI SIPUT, Aug 5 (Bernama) -- Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Thursday stressed that Malaysia would not bow to pressure from any quarters, including foreign countries, over the sodomy case involving Parti Keadilan Rakyat advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He said such interference was a futile exercise and also showed that Anwar was desperate that he had resorted to using a "lifeline" by collaborating with his foreign friends to serve his own interest.

"It's a futile attempt, as no quarters in Malaysia will bow to the calls (for Anwar to be freed from the sodomy charge). As a former deputy prime minister, Anwar should know better but the question is -- is he so desperate as to ask for help from his American friends? The answer is clear now," he said after opening the Perak Agrofest 2010 at Ladang Infoternak, here Thursday.

Muhyiddin was earlier asked by reporters on the statement by former United States vice-president Al Gore and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz published in the Asian Wall Street Journal which called for the US government to intervene in Anwar's sodomy case which is currently being heard before the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

In the statement, besides describing Anwar as "possessing qualities that encourage hope for the future", Gore and Wolfowitz said Malaysians should not be deprived of the opportunity to decide on who they wish to lead them by an abuse of judicial power.

They also urged their government "to make clear the importance the US attaches to the role of the law in sustaining a political process in which justice and freedom are natural allies".

Muhyiddin said such a call was inappropriate as Malaysia practised democracy and had it owns laws and well-managed legal system, which Gore and Wolfowitz should respect, like they did for their own country's laws and legal system.

"We obey our country's laws but while Anwar's case is still being heard in court, I'm surprised why he's turning to outside help, as though he's so desperate. Is it because he's not capable of standing up for himself or feels that he has a weak case?. I don't wish to be prejudiced as the case is still before the court," he said.

Muhyiddin said Anwar should know that no foreign power could interfere in Malaysia's legal system.

On the High Court's decision to strike out the petition by PKR candidate and former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim against Hulu Selangor MP P. Kamalanathan from Barisan Nasional (BN) to declare the by-election null and void for alleged bribery by BN, Muhyiddin said the opposition should accept the decision.

"All along we've abided by the law and regulations in every by-election or general election. Therefore, the court's decision should not be challenged. We know the people had made the right decision by choosing our candidate as they have confidence in BN.

"What is more important now is that Kamalanathan is no longer 'disturbed' by the legal case so that he can fully concentrate on his responsibilities for his constituents.

"We are monitoring our (BN) elected representatives and he is among the most active new ones. He knows that in the current political situation, all our elected reps cannot slack but be fully committed to serve the people."

In the Hulu Selangor by-election on April 25, Kamalanathan defeated Zaid by a 1,725-vote majority.

Umno-BN Bimbang CheGuBard Sebar Kisah Sebenar Altantuya Ke Luar Negara

Oleh Faizal Ezzany

SHAH ALAM- Ahli Majlis Pimpinan KEADILAN Pusat, Badrul Hisham Shaharin menyifatkan penahanannya oleh pihak polis semalam mempunyai motif yang lebih besar dan bukan sekadar dakwaan berkaitan aktikel yang di tulis di dalam blog beliau.
Ketika dihubungi Suara Keadilan, Badrul Hisham aka CheGuBard memberitahu dalam siasatan yang dilakukan oleh pihak polis soal siasat hanya tertumpu kepada aktiviti semasa lawatan beliau ke Jakarta dan bukannya isu surat terbuka kepada Yang DiPertuan Agong atau kenyataan berkenaan pembunuhan warga Mongolia Altantuya Shaariibuu.
"Sebaik sampai dari Jakarta saya terus sahaja ke Pejabat KEADILAN Negeri Sembilan untuk mempengerusikan mesyuarat Cabang Rembau. Apabila saya sampai di sana pihak polis seramai 15 orang telah mengepung pejabat tersebut dan mereka menyerahkan waran tangkap kepada saya.
Beliau berada di Jakarta selama enam hari bermula 4 Julai dalam rangka aktiviti Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM).
"Saya di bawa ke Balai Polis Daerah (IPD) Seremban dan di sana pihak polis mengatakan saya ditahan di bawah Akta Hasutan seksyen 41 serta ada laporan dibuat oleh Pemuda Umno yang mengatakan penulisan saya di dalam blog mempunyai unsur hasutan. Apabila saya ingin melihat laporan tuduhan tersebut saya telah dinafikan hak.
"Polis mengatakan laporan tersebut dibuat terhadap surat terbuka saya kepada Yang DiPertuan Agong sempena hari Keputeraan DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di Pertuan Agong yang lalu dikatakan ada unsur hasutan dan menghina institusi raja. Keterangan saya cukup jelas surat terbuka saya itu hanya dengan niat untuk meningkatkan martabat Raja-Raja Melayu tidak ada langsung unsur hasutan.
"Apa yang dihairankan kalau laporan itu hanya tertumpu kepada laporan tersebut kenapa saya tidak dipanggil lebih awal lagi kerana laporan itu telah dibuat sebulan lebih selain itu juga soalan pihak polis lebih kepada lawatan saya ke Jakarta. Mereka ingin mengetahui apa tujuan saya ke sana adakah isu Altantuya menjadi agenda utama saya ke sana.
"Pihak polis juga menyoal saya tentang hubungan jaringan antarabangsa saya dengan negara luar yang lain adakah agendanya sama seperti apa yang saya lakukan di Jakarta," kata CheGuBard.
Tambahnya lagi selepas di soal siasat beliau di bawa ke rumahnya di Bukit Chedang, Seremban untuk digeledah bagi mencari bahan bukti kerana pihak polis telah mempunyai waran mengeledah rumahnya.
"Saya di bawa ke rumah setelah pihak polis menunjukkan waran geledah, semasa di sana mereka mencari buku nota dan juga komputer riba yang selalu saya gunakan. Mereka tetap bertanya di mana saya letak komputer riba tersebut walaupun berkali-kali memberitau saya tidak mempunyai komputer riba dan segala kerja saya hanya mengguna komputer di Pejabat KEADILAN dan juga 'cyber cafe' sahaja. Walaupun mereka tidak menjumpai apa-apa bukti pihak polis tetap merakam gambar tempat ruang kerja saya," jelas beliau lagi.
Beliau dibebaskan dengan jaminan polis setelah keterangan kali kedua diambil.CheGuBard juga tidak menolak kemungkinan pihak polis akan menyerbu pejabat KEADILAN Negeri Sembilan Isnin nanti kerana kenyataannya yang mengatakan beliau menggunakan komputer pejabat untuk urusan kerjanya.
Beliau memberitahu kebanyakan organisasi negara luar mahupun media antarabangsa tidak mengetahui cerita sebenar yang menimpa Altantuya malah anggapan mereka kes tersebut sudah selesai.
"Disebabkan oleh putar belit media Umno menyebabkan kebanyakan organisasi dan media negara luar tidak tahu cerita sebenar yang telah menimpa Altantuya. Apabila saya menjelaskan perkara yang sebenarnya berlaku serta pengedaran buku dan juga VCD barulah mereka tahu kenapa Altantuya di bunuh dan siapa dalang sebenarnya.
"Buku dan VCD sudah berada ditangan organinasi dan media disana, sekarang mereka membuat penilaian sebenar disebalik pembunuhan Altantuya. Saya pasti masyarakat luar juga menilai kenapa media negara ini perlu memutar belit berita yang sebenar," kata CheGuBard.

PICC and the risks of BOT

It is good to hear that the Penang government plans to stay put at its present offices in Komtar instead of building a “mini-Putrajaya’ (one of the hare-brained ideas of the previous administration). This, we are told, will save us RM1 billion in public funds.
We are also told the government will try to maximise its resources, to get more money so that it can continue its development and social programmes which are consistent with a people-centric government.
In the same spirit, I hope the state government will think along the same lines when it comes to the Penang International Convention Centre.
One good thing is that the state government appears to have abandoned plans to fund the PICC using RM50 million of the Penang Island Municipal Council’s (MPPP’s) precious funds. (The MPPP raises just over RM200 million a year from its operations.)
The state government is now looking at the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model for the PICC – presumably with the MPPP remaining as the ultimate owner of the project?
What is BOT? Under a BOT, a private firm or investors receive a contract to finance, build, and operate infrastructure for a set number of years. In return, they get to charge the users for the use of the infrastructure at a rate which makes the project financially viable for them. At the end of the agreed number of years, the project is handed over to the state.
Theoretically, the BOT option has several advantages:
  • It frees the state government from looking for financing for infrastructure it thinks is important. Whoever is selected as the private company will have to secure its own financing.
  • The state government/MPPP can set its minimum specifications for the construction, which the private company will have to comply with. The state can then monitor the work.
  • The private company will be discouraged from carrying out slipshod work or cutting corners in the construction as it will eventually have to maintain and operate the venue for a number of years.
The disadvantages of BOT in this case should be cause for concern:
  • The private company selected may have the expertise for construction, but it may not have the required expertise to operate and maintain the place.
  • If the contract is to run the place for X number of years, and if the private company is not able to operate or maintain the place, the state government/MPPP may not have the option to terminate the company and appoint someone else who can do a better job.
  • One of the components of BOT is the user-pay principle. But what if there are not enough users and the PICC is underutilised and the private company ends up making losses – will the state government end up having to subsidise the company? Under the BOT model, it is possible that the private company could get the land on the cheap or for next to nothing; so that is already a form of subsidy.
  • Will the MPPP still have to stump out expenses for major repairs and maintenance as it is now doing in the case of the Penang International Sports Arena.
  • Will financial institutions provide the required financing to the private company without the state government assuming some of the risks or providing guarantees?
These are some of the factors and risks the state government will have to consider before it uses the BOT model. Personally, I still think the risks are too high for this project.