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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sacked but KP Samy stills get show-cause letter

By G Vinod - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: In a strange turn of event, expelled MIC central working committee (CWC) member KP Samy was slapped with a show-cause letter by the MIC headquarters yesterday. The former party leader, who is also a coordinator for Gerakan Anti-Samy Vellu (GAS), was reprimanded for not attending the 64th MIC annual general meeting (AGM) held on July 10 and 11 and asked to explain. But KP Samy was sacked from the party on May 24.

In the show-cause letter dated Aug 16, MIC secretary-general T Rajagopalu stated that KP Samy was absent from the party's AGM in July, implying that the event was an important avenue to discuss various matters pertaining to the Indian community.

Rajagopalu gave KP Samy two weeks to reply to the show-cause letter, failing which action will be taken against him.

Speaking to FMT, KP Samy said that he is perplexed when he received the letter yesterday.

“I was shocked and out of words when I received the letter. As far as I know, I was sacked by party president S Samy Vellu in May itself.

“I was never reinstated as my expulsion was upheld by the CWC on July 22.”

“I am surprised the party still considers me a member,”said KP Samy.

The former MIC veteran said the letter proved that the party still recognised his contributions to the party and community as a whole.

“This letter signalled that the party still recognises my contributions and holds me in high regard,” he said, adding that he will reply.

“Though I am not sure what is going on, I will explain my absence to the party,” he said, declining to divulge more details.

“I will elaborate on my reply at a press conference on Monday.”

“All I can say now is that the letter confirmed that I am still an MIC member and I will resume my duties as a party member,” said KP Samy.

'Musa playing a bluffing game'

By Charlie Rudai - Free Malaysia Today,

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Musa Aman is playing a “game of bluff” when he said all is well within the Sabah Barisan Nasional, says Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP). SAPP claims that the Sabah BN is wrecked with fierce dissent, giving the lie to Musa's assertion that the relationship among the state component parties was cordial.

The state BN is trying to hide the fact that there is fierce dissent in the coalition over Musa's leadership, it says.

SAPP supreme council member, David Chong, said the discord was revealed when Musa, who is also the Sabah BN chief, was forced to say that the component parties were united.

He said Musa tried to forestall a bitter fallout during the BN meeting on Tuesday with Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leaders over his failure to act on certain issues. This showed that the coalition is not united, he added.

On Wednesday, LDP deputy president Chin Su Phin, who represented his president VK Liew at the state BN meeting, announced that the party had lost confidence in Musa's leadership and could no longer work with him.

“The fact is the chief minister was only bluffing the people when he said that the state BN component parties are united,” Chong said in a statement here yesterday.

“It shows that the BN component parties cannot cooperate with one another because they only care about their personal interests and not the rakyat and state,” he said.

Chong said that a sign of the disunity in the state BN was also reflected through Chin’s statement that Musa simply did not want to listen to the views of the BN partners.

On Thursday, Musa, when responding to Chin, reiterated that the state BN was as strong as ever.

Musa was reported as saying that the issues raised by Chin were personal like the Kudat Mazu statue project.

'I hope Musa is telling the truth'

Musa expressed regret that some LDP leaders chose to raise personal issues at the state BN meeting on Tuesday and insisted that the relationship among the component parties remained cordial.

“I hope Musa is telling the truth... he should tell the people what actually happened during the meeting or he would be called a liar,” said Chong.

He also said Musa should exercise his power as the state BN chairman to “suspend and expel the one or two component parties for insubordination”.
He said it was clear that the state BN leadership did not care about LDP as could be seen in the group photo published in the newspapers the next day. There were no LDP leaders in it.

“Even if Chin was only representing his president, surely Deputy Chief Minister Peter Pang, who is a LDP vice-president and representing the Chinese community in Sabah, qualifies to be among the state BN leaders.

“But it has been proven that the BN cannot cooperate... PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s statement that Chin’s remarks did not represent the views of LDP but his own was just an attempt to cover up for Musa,” said Chong.

Unite or we die, Indians told

By B Nantha Kumar - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: MIC Youth has conceded that it can no longer walk alone. Its chief T Mohan said the past three years have been nothing but divisive political opinions.
This, he added, was not beneficial to the community.

“It is time for the Indians to unite… I invite all NGOs to work together to save our future here,” he said.

Mohan said the Indian community needed to understand that if they banded together, it would be most beneficial and “no power in this country can destroy us".

"Our strength is unity. But it is not very easy to unite our society. Our people are mostly divided in two groups -- the rich and the poor," he said.

On the issue of youths, he confessed that it was hard to engage their interest in social causes.

“Youngsters today lack a sense of social responsibility. The graduates are more focused on the economy and establishing a comfortable life for themselves. There is no place for social responsibility,” he said.

According to Mohan, one of the main reasons they refused to focus on social responsibility was priority.

“These students study hard, make it to university and after that it is prioritising their needs. They feel that they must first meet their own needs before they can help others,” he said.

'MIC on the right track'
Mohan said as MIC Youth chief, he is criss-crossing the country meeting young people and is now very much aware of the change filtering through the community.

“On the whole, I see now there is political awareness in society. It's something good that we never ever seen before. We (MIC) are on the right track. We are happy to have worked with youths and groups who have stepped up in the political scene or for that matter in other fields such as education and welfare.

“The point is we must all stand united,” he told FMT.

Asked about uneducated youths, Mohan admitted that this group was MIC’s first target.

"Growing up in deficiency has pushed them into the wrong path. Inadequate education and poor religious guidance have made them vulnerable to gangsterism and drug addiction," he said, adding that the party had already taken up various steps to assist the rehabilitation of these youths.

"But we have a long journey ahead. To build a healthy society in all aspects, each person must give his commitment," he said.

Fresh violence hits Mexico

  Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez reports on the violence from the Mexican city of Reynosa 
(Al Jazeera) A car bomb has exploded outside the local affiliate of Televisa TV network in the northeastern city of Ciudad Victoria, in Tamaulipas state.
Friday's blast damaged equipment and the station was unable to broadcast locally, AFP news agency reported.
"Fortunately none of our colleagues were wounded," Carlos Loret de Mola, the host of the Televisa morning news show, said.
Two witnesses saw the charred remains of a parked vehicle outside the TV studio in Ciudad Victoria, while Televisa's main morning news anchorman said nearby buildings were damaged, causing a power outage.
A second car exploded 45 minutes later outside a police station, also in Ciudad Victoria, where officials are investigating the killing of 72 Central and South American migrants.
Prosecutor missing
The investigation has been complicated, however, by the disappearance of a prosecutor a day after the massacre.

The Tamaulipas attorney-general's office said Roberto Jaime Suarez disappeared on Wednesday in the town of San Fernando.
Felipe Calderon, Mexico's president, confirmed on Friday that Suarez, a Tamaulipas state prosecutor, was involved in the investigation of the massacre, which authorities have blamed on the Zetas drug cartel.
Reporting on Friday's bomb blast, Mariana Sanchez , Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mexico, said while Televisa has suffered attacks in the past, this one is significant.
"It happened just days after the massacre [of 72 people]. It appears to be a message from the perpetrators, the Zetas, that they are in command here and they don't want any investigating to be done in Tamaulipas state," she said.
Televisa, Mexico's most watched TV network, has had affiliates attacked twice this year, most recently in the northern industrial city of Monterrey two weeks ago.
A van packed with explosives blew up outside a police station on August 5 also in Ciudad Victoria, causing some damage but no injuries.
Escalating drug war
No group was immediately blamed for the August 5 blast but drug cartels set off a car bomb in Mexico's most violent city, Ciudad Juarez, in July, the first of its kind, and another earlier this month in Tamaulipas in Mexico's escalating drug war.
Ciudad Victoria is the capital of Tamaulipas, which borders the US state of Texas.
The Gulf of Mexico drug cartel has been engaged in a bitter turf war with the Zetas drug cartel for control of Tamaulipas' smuggling routes into the US,
More than 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006, when Calderon launched a nationwide crackdown against narco-traffickers.

Ex-teachers’ union chief: Race taunts normal in schools

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Racial slurs and comments in schools can be overcome with fair, firm and transparent administration, according to an eminent educationist.

P. Ramanathan, a former teacher and former president of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP), the country’s largest teachers’ organisation, said racist remarks were nothing new as they were common among teachers and pupils and often practised by all ethnic groups.

“This was usually a form of letting off steam due to unfairness in the way the school is administered.

“The use of double standards which favour certain groups also result in such remarks and comments. Some teachers and pupils are taken to task by the headmaster for certain activities while others who do similar mistakes are not punished.

“Things like this, which lead to frustration, result in such remarks,” he told Bernama here today.

“However, the difference is that some say it loudly while many just whisper among their own racial groups,” he said.

Ramanathan said that during his 35 years of teaching and active involvement in the NUTP, there were many such cases which were dealt with within the ambit of the school regulations.

“We never went to the media, and always settled them amicably among ourselves without much fuss,” he added.

Ramanathan was commenting on the case of a school principal in Kulaijaya, Johor, who had allegedly used racist remarks on Aug 12.

He felt that transferring such teachers would not solve the problem because these teachers had their own grassroots support among the staff and students.

He said that from experience, he found that sometimes such transfers would cause more problems than they would solve.

He urged the ministry to carefully monitor school administrators to ensure professional handling of all the concerns of students, parents and teachers.

Parent-teacher associations should also assist in this important task, he said. — Bernama

Action against Jeffrey's 12: 'Serial liar' Anwar slammed

By FMT Staff

PETALING JAYA: Several PKR leaders, from both peninsula and Sabah, have slammed party supremo Anwar Ibrahim over his role in the one-year suspension recommended to 12 Sabah leaders aligned to vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan.

To make things worse, they say, Anwar continues to remain silent in public, and allow his loyalists to manipulate the situation by not revealing the truth.

“So many conversations and incidents that took place about a year ago involving the 12 and the Sabah situation are now being given a new spin by Anwar's people. This is not good for the party,” the leaders said.

Several senior party leaders were also disappointed with Anwar for “pretending” that he was not fully aware of the peace deal that was struck on Dec 13 last year, which included not going on a witch-hunt against Jeffrey's boys.

“However behind the scenes, we know that Anwar is fully aware of what's being done to curtail the influence of the Sabah 12, and by extention, the influence of Jeffrey.

“We can only come to a conclusion that Anwar is lying. He has done this before. First it was the Sept 16 takeover, and then the alleged RM2 million offer for PKR reps to defect and now this Sabah 12 case. These just make him seem like a serial liar,” one senior leader told FMT.

The party leaders opted to remain anonymous fearing repercussion from the party, especially with the party polls to come in November.

The unfair game

Party leaders also expressed disappointment with last-minute rescheduling of the party's powerful political bureau meeting from 8pm to 2.30pm last Wednesday, the same day when the party's disciplinary committee was hearing the case against the 12 in Penampang, Sabah.

At the political bureau meeting held at the party headquarters here, it was decided that the final decision on the 12 would be made by the supreme council this Sunday. This decision was made even before the disciplinary committee had completed its hearing (which ended at 4pm on Wednesday).

The change in time also prevented Jeffrey from presenting the case for the 12 as his flight ticket was booked for the 8pm meeting.

“This is a clear sign of Anwar's boys putting up a show to ensure things are done according to the party constitution but in reality, a decision has been made to suspend the 12,” said the party leaders.

The fear among these leaders now is that the supreme council, which is controlled by Anwar, would let him take a final decision on the suspension.

“Ultimately, Anwar might once again want to have a deal with Jeffery over the future of the 12 but we are confident that any such deals will only favour Azmin and his loyalists in Sabah, not the Jeffrey group,” they added.

Anwar knew all

FMT learnt that at the political bureau meeting, party leaders such as Tian Chua, Chua Jui Meng and Fuziah Salleh had urged Anwar to stick to the peace deal and not to take action against the 12.

However, their arguments were shot down by vice-president Azmin Ali and Anwar himself, by stating that the party had agreed to the peace deal last December without knowing that the 12 had applied to form a new breakaway party.

Anwar and Azmin had argued that if they had known the 12 had gone as far as filing an application to set up a new party, they would not have agreed to the peace deal.

“This is a total lie. Anwar was fully aware of every detail of the peace deal, including the fact that these 12 would be withdrawing their application to form a new party under the peace deal.

“Chua (Jui Meng) was among those who were present when the peace deal was being ironed out at the Eastin Hotel in Petaling Jaya. He knows the truth, and so does a handful of other senior leaders. They all know that Anwar is lying,” said a party leader.

These leaders were also miffed by the reason given by Azmin to take action against the 12 when he had labelled the Sabah rebels as being without “integrity and principles” at the political bureau meeting.

“This is really funny. He calling these 12 as leaders without integrity and principles. He should ask that to himself and Anwar first,” added the party leader.

The grand plan

The 12 leaders have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings due to their role in setting up Parti Cinta Sabah last year.

The idea of the new party was mooted by some Sabah PKR leaders following a massive fallout between Jeffrey and fellow vice-president Azmin, which resulted in Jeffrey being replaced as the state chief.

However, under a peace plan inked on Dec 13 here, Jeffrey was made responsible for both Sabah and Sarawak and another person was put in charge of the state. Azmin was totally removed from the state line-up.

The peace deal also ensured that there will be no witchhunt against those who had allegedly plotted against the party at that time by aligning themselves with Jeffrey.

The sacking, or even suspension, of the 12 would result in them playing no part in the coming party polls. Their backers have seen this development as an elaborate plan hatched by Azmin and his Sabah loyalists to cut off rivals from the party.

Jeffrey yesterday warned Anwar to expect a backlash if the peace plan was torn up.

Dr M fears 'burial' in Pakatan dawn

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad's hard-hitting words are a clear reflection of his fear of Pakatan Rakyat winning the next general election.
According to PAS information chief Idris Ahmad, this is the 84-year-old former premier's worst nightmare. “He knows he will be lynched and buried... he's afraid for his future.”

Idris believes that it is this fear that has warped Mahathir’s perception and this is why he is purposely refusing to understand the current political scenario in the country.

He said PAS is disappointed in Mahathir’s threatening statements warning Malays to unite or face political extinction in the hands of the non-Malays.

“There is no such thing as Malays losing their power base. We have repeatedly told the people, 'if Umno loses, the winner is PAS'. We know we (PAS) will be facing-off with Umno in all the Malay strongholds. We also know that we have a stronger case. PAS has a principled stand, our policies are long-term and rakyat-friendly compared to Umno's,” he added.

According to him, Mahathir, whose early political perspectives are ensconced in his infamous Malay Dilemma book which propelled his rise to iconic status, belongs to the “group who pretends” not to understand the realness of the current political landscape.

'He suggested meritocracy as well'
The former premier, he said, believes that it is mandatory that Malays unite only under Umno “as if there are no other avenues of uniting”.

“This is the state of the Umno mind. This is the understanding that has been indoctrinated into government servants via the Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau).

“Umno leaders have consistently alleged that only Umno understands progress and knows how to rule. But that theory got lost in the barrage of the 2008 political tsunami,” he said.

“The rakyat now have a choice. They are able to evaluate the capability of Pakatan administrations in Selangor, Kedah and Penang. Although Pakatan governments are considered young, they have managed to expedite rapid changes.

“The people can see for themselves the changes from the angle of transparency and localising the state wealth so that it is enjoyed by every level of society and not just the elite,” he added.

Idris said in the 22 years he ruled, Mahathir implemented many policies that were detrimental to the Malays.

Among them were Malay reserve lands converted and not replaced and the implementation of the teaching of Maths and Science in English even though it was a setback for the rural Malays.

“He himself suggested before that Malays throw away the culture of subsidy and proposed meritocratic policies... he has done so much more damage to the Malays when he was in power.

“Having said this, I am wondering why Mahathir is so vehement to the point of appearing to threaten Malays into uniting under Umno.

“I can only assume that he is petrified and does not want to face his worst nightmare... Pakatan winning and ruling the country… then he himself won’t be safe,” said Idris

Nyonya food at Pulau Tikus

On the Food Trail with Tiberius Kerk

ANY long-time resident of Penang will tell you that one of those places worth visiting on a return trip to the island is Pulau Tikus.
The morning market at this place still retains all the flavours of old Penang. Some of the food sold and eaten here remind those of us who have come of age (a long time ago) that some things are best
savoured at their original sites.

Naturally, when an ex-Penangite shows up at Pulau Tikus, he tends to arrive at about 10-11am. Not exactly the right time because the housewives were already there at 8.30am.

Breakfast means a bowl of hokkien prawn mee inside the market at the food court. Or, perhaps just a plate of fried beehoon or plain chee cheong fun, Penang-style. That means none of those concoctions you find in KL.

Penang chee cheong fun is best with some local sweet sauce, chilli sauce, oil and a handful of fried onion rings. The locals swear that it surpasses those fusion chee cheong fun outside the state.
It is a unique feature of this market that there’s a stall selling nyonya dishes that our grandmothers and mothers used to cook for us.

This includes the dry sambal mixed with shrimps, acar with all the right ingredients, curry chicken with special nyonya flavours and “perut ikan”.

The last dish is rapidly fading from the nyonya menu these days, simply because it involves too much work. The hawkers will tell you that the returns are low, and perut ikan is unfamiliar to many members of the younger generation.

Below market price

Fortunately at Penang’s Pulau Tikus market, it still exists and thrives. Some of us who have sampled the dish (perut ikan) will tell you with tears in our eyes that it reminds us of our mothers.

Perhaps that is why so many ex-Penangites rush back to their beloved island the first chance they get. Where else but Penang, you can get a bowl of steaming hot hokkien prawn mee for RM2.50.

And if you are a hardcore and very frugal person, you will head towards Jelutong and find a stall selling hokkien prawn mee for RM2.

It is said that Penang people are so stingy that they won’t pay more than RM2.50 for “ordinary” hawker food.

In fact, if they can get it for RM1.80, they will drive five miles to find that crazy hawker who sells his dishes at below market price.

Another seasonal local dessert is the “koay ee” (glutinous rice balls). Luckily for us, when we were there, this woman who was selling all our favourite nyonya dishes was also selling the glutinous rice balls.

Opposite her stall was another woman who specialised in ordinary dishes that were of great help to the local housewives who found it quite a chore to cook up more than three dishes on a daily basis.

Fried kembong, various types of veggies and some unsophisticated curry dishes will complete any meal at any Chinese home on the island.

Right eating places
Frankly there’s no shortage of good food in and around the Pulau Tikus market. Just a hop, skip and jump away there are two corner coffeeshops that are filled to the brim every morning.

I will happily vouch for the above par hawker food sold in either coffeeshop. It is not coincidental that the residential homes in Pulau Tikus are highly priced.

Great food and that includes mamak mee goreng, mee rebus, roti canai and with the seafront (Gurney Drive) nearby, Pulau Tikus is a favourite pit-stop for many visitors to the Pearl of the Orient.

I normally have my second breakfast at the market on my annual pilgrimage to the island. Anybody who knows Penang won’t go hungry if he knows all the right eating places.

Mornings at Pulau Tikus easily take up two or three hours. The food portions on the island are not big, neither are their prices. That’s the way, it should be.

A visitor to Penang eats little but often. The challenge is how to squeeze as many variety of hawker food in a single day and night as well.

Malaysia's New Journey

Common cause Malaysia's three major races are reflected in one train carriage

By Michael Schuman (TIME)

Malaysia is that rare country with an unequivocal national narrative. It goes something like this: Malaysia's 28 million people, comprising mainly Malays, Chinese and Indians, make up a moderate and modern emerging democracy. Unlike members of other multiethnic countries, they respect one another's beliefs and values and share a commitment to achieving prosperity. The official religion is Islam, but other faiths are freely allowed and celebrated. This is one harmonious place.

Much of that narrative is true — but not all of it.

Malaysia's economic miracle has stalled, and while the nation is, indeed, somewhat pluralistic, it is no melting pot. Indeed, it is a society where people define themselves first and foremost by race. (See pictures of Islam in Asia.)

The country's political leadership has in some respects reinforced those ethnic identities. For the past 40 years, policymakers have doled out special privileges — in education and business — to one community: the majority Malays. The program is one of modern history's greatest experiments in social engineering and possibly the world's most extensive attempt at affirmative action. But the policies have also bred resentment among minorities, distorted the economy and undermined the concept of a single Malaysian identity.

Now a movement is gaining strength to finally change the system — and it's coming from the very top. Prime Minister Najib Razak, 57, has surprised the country by advocating a fundamental reform of the pro-Malay program first introduced, ironically, by his father, who was Malaysia's Prime Minister in the 1970s. Though the specifics of the new policies remain hazy, Najib's intent is not. "I want Malaysia to be globally competitive," he told TIME in an exclusive interview. "For that, we need to get every single Malaysian to be together."

Najib's proposals have simultaneously raised hopes, ire and fear. The mere idea of changing the affirmative-action system has reopened old wounds in Malaysian society and reactivated the long-running debate on how best to fuse Malays, Chinese and Indians into one nation. The direction Malaysia takes, moreover, has repercussions beyond its shores. The issues raised by Najib's proposals are relevant to any upwardly mobile developing economy, especially a multicultural one: how to increase wealth and do so equitably. (Read "Why the Honeymoon is Over for Malaysia's New PM.")

In confronting these sensitive challenges, Najib is taking enormous political risks. The primary base of electoral support for Najib's political party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), is the Malay community, and altering decades-old perquisites could cause voters to defect to the opposition. But Najib believes he has little choice. If Malaysia's economy is to compete with China, India and other rapidly emerging neighbors, Najib sees no other route but reform. "The competition is much greater and some would describe it even as cutthroat," Najib says. "There is a realization that what has worked in the past may not necessarily work in the future."

The Malay Card

Najib is facing the same dilemma his predecessors have since the earliest days of Malaysian independence: balancing the perceived needs of the Malays, both political and economic, with those of the country as a whole. At the heart of the problem is the reverse-pyramid shape of the Malaysian economy. Though the Malays and other indigenous peoples, together known as bumiputra in Malay, make up about 60% of the population, they have traditionally been poorer than the Chinese and Indian immigrants, who have long dominated the nation's business and trade. After Kuala Lumpur was struck by race riots in 1969, a shaken leadership determined that communal peace was impossible without economic balance. The result was the New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced in 1971, which aimed to raise the Malays' share of the economic pie. Malays were given preferential access to public contracts and university scholarships. Any company listing on the stock market had to sell 30% of its shares to bumiputra investors. Though some measures have been softened or eliminated over the past two decades, many pro-Malay privileges remain. Certain government contracts are available only to bumiputra-controlled firms, for example. Malays even receive special discounts on home purchases. The affirmative-action program has become so ingrained in the Malaysian psyche that it is akin to a national ideology.

It is also controversial. Critics contend that the pro-Malay program too often benefits the connected few over its intended targets: the poor and struggling. All car-import permits, for example, are awarded to bumiputra-controlled firms, a policy intended to foster entrepreneurs in the community. But government audits have revealed that Malay businessmen with access to the permits sometimes sell them to minority traders who don't — at an instant profit. (The Ministry of Trade and Industry, recognizing the problem, says it will phase out the permit system by 2020.) "Unfortunately, as [the NEP] was implemented over time, some of the zealots, politicians and bureaucrats included, tended to become more racial and emphasized more on the people who have relationships with them," says Razaleigh Hamzah, an UMNO dignitary and former Finance Minister. "That's where it went wrong."

Despite four decades of special aid, 3 in 4 of the poorest people in Malaysia are still bumiputra. Adli Ahmad Ghazi, the Malay co-owner of Malaysian Defensive Driving & Riding, a 70-employee driving school in Kuala Lumpur, complains that the pro-Malay policies do little to help a small businessman like himself. In 2008, Adli tried to get financing from three agencies tasked with supporting Malay businessmen or small enterprises, but got rejected. When he has to deal with the bureaucracy, Adli says, he faces the same red tape as any other businessman. It took him two years to buy a parcel of land for his company from the local government. "The [NEP] rules don't really apply to people on the ground," Adli says. "They say the NEP would help the Malays, but it only helps a small percentage of the Malays."

Comfort Zone

Affirmative action may not be helping the overall Malaysian economy either. Though Malaysia has been among the best-performing economies in the world since World War II and boasts a spectacular record of improving human welfare — the percentage of the population living in absolute poverty has plummeted from 50% in 1970 to less than 4% today — the story is now stuck on the same chapter. Malaysia has fallen into what is called the "middle-income trap." Having elevated itself to a comfortable level of income, Malaysia has been unable to take that next leap into the realm of advanced economies. While growth has slowed, Malaysians have watched other fast-paced Asian rivals zip by. In 1970, the gross national income per capita of South Korea, at $260, was below Malaysia's $380, but by 2009, South Korea's was almost three times larger, at $19,830 vs. $7,230, according to the World Bank. (See pictures of Malaysia.)

Malaysia's struggles reflect those facing Southeast Asia as a whole. The region's economies once seemed among the world's most promising emerging markets, but in recent years, progress in almost all of them has been stymied by upheaval and poor governance. Thailand remains rudderless as its fragile democracy has degenerated into perpetual factional strife. The promise of the Philippines remains unrealized as its feeble government has continually failed to enact the tough reforms needed to turn around the underperforming economy. Indonesia is only now returning to its place as one of the world's premier emerging economies after a decade of political uncertainty scared off foreign investors.

If it is able to change its economic system, Malaysia could show its neighbors the way forward. Malaysia's essential problem is that its growth model — export-oriented manufacturing, often by foreign-invested factories — has become mismatched with its needs. Malaysia must become more innovative if its rapid development is to continue. But that's not happening. Private investment has fallen from a third of GDP in the mid-1990s to only about 10% today, labor-productivity growth has slowed, and R&D spending remains anemic. Instead of developing new products with highly skilled technicians, Malaysia's manufacturing sector still too often assembles goods designed by others, using imported technology and low-skilled foreign workers. "There is a growing realization that Malaysia's relative position compared to other countries that are catching up very quickly is not improving," says Philip Schellekens, a senior economist at the World Bank. "Relative to where they want to be, there is still a long road." (Read "Fortress Asia: Is a Powerful New Trade Bloc Forming?")

Though it would be incorrect to blame the pro-Malay policies for the economy's woes — Malaysia did, once, achieve remarkable rates of growth with the perquisites in place — they are nevertheless dampening business sentiment, scaring off talent, curtailing investment and stifling domestic competition. Chua Tiam Wee, president of the SMI Association of Malaysia, a small-enterprise organization, believes relaxing the NEP preferences would create a more level playing field on which the most capable firms could advance, making the economy more merit-based and upgrading Malaysian industry. The affirmative-action policy is "a source of a lot of distortions to the economic system," Chua says. By limiting the opportunities available to minorities, the NEP is likely contributing to a brain drain, in which some of the country's most talented people choose to work elsewhere. The government estimates that more than half of the 350,000 Malaysians working abroad have a college education. Stéphane Garelli, director of the World Competitiveness Center at IMD, a business school in Switzerland, believes that the affirmative-action regulations have made Malaysia less attractive to foreign investors. Malaysia's "bargaining power to put such restrictions on foreign investors is not as big as other nations'," he says.

Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs in Malaysia certainly believe the pro-Malay policies cap their business opportunities. Pardip Kumar Kukreja, the Malaysian-Indian chairman of Grand Paradise Holdings, a Kuala Lumpur — based firm that manages and owns hotels and operates travel agencies, laments that he can't get access to lucrative contracts providing travel services to the government due to regulations that favor Malay-owned enterprises. Removing such restrictions, he says, can act as an incentive to invest. Kukreja recently decided to launch an Internet-based business to sell travel services worldwide because Najib's administration liberalized affirmative-action rules for the tourism sector last year. "There are many things we'd like to do, which we hope we'll be able to do in the near future," he says. "To a small and medium entrepreneur, he wants to make his own decisions."

New and Untested

Najib is convinced the old ways must go. The centerpiece of his economic reform program, introduced in March, is called the New Economic Model (NEM). The plan envisions reducing red tape to encourage more private investment and internal competition, decreasing the state role in the economy and improving the education system to produce more skilled workers. "For us to move up a few notches, we have to address the structural problems," Najib says. "We cannot be in denial." Most of all, the NEM also proposes a major reform of affirmative-action policies to phase out remaining racial quotas and focus efforts on uplifting the poorest 40% of the population — irrespective of race. Says Najib: "I don't want anyone to feel that they've been left out or marginalized."

There are urgent political reasons he feels that way. UMNO, which has ruled Malaysia in coalition since its independence from Britain in 1957, lost ground to opposition parties in a hotly contested 2008 general election, and Najib is faced with the daunting prospect of expanding UMNO's political base outside its core Malay constituency. The NEM is an effort by Najib to turn stodgy UMNO into the party of change and outmaneuver its rivals. Some powerful voices within UMNO are egging on Najib to push his reforms. "We have to be bold and brave to ensure [our] long-term competitiveness," says Khairy Jamaluddin, an UMNO member of Parliament. (Read "Will Sodomy Charges End Malaysia's Opposition?")

Yet Najib has also come under pressure from conservative elements in the Malay community to hold back. "The bumiputra are still lagging behind," complains Ibrahim Ali, president of Malay nationalist organization Perkasa. "If the economy is not balanced, then everything will lead to trouble." As a result, Najib doesn't have full support from an UMNO worried about scaring off Malay voters. Najib's reform program "is a tough sell within the party," admits Khairy. "There will be people who resist the changes."

The split in UMNO reflects the greater divide within the Malay community over the future of affirmative action. Some Malays believe that they still don't possess the skills and resources to contend against Chinese businessmen, making continued affirmative-action policies indispensable. The program "should stay in place and improve," says Rizal Faris, president of the Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce. "What [officials] want to achieve is a level playing field where all parties are able to compete on their merits, but we need to ensure that the Malay community has been sufficiently skilled and pulled up." But others believe the time has come for Malays to step up and compete on their own, without special government aid. Akmal Syahirah, a 21-year-old law student at the University of Malaya, says that affirmative action should be eliminated, even though her family has greatly benefited from it in the past. Her father acquired land to produce palm oil through a pro-Malay development scheme, and her three younger sisters received tuition for extra after-school studies. But now, "I think we need to change," she says. "We can't just let Malays stay in their comfort zone."

Balancing Act

Faced with such contending forces, Najib is trying to please everybody. Affirmative action won't be eliminated entirely under the NEM, but altered to weed out abusive practices, target money where it is most needed and support the most worthy Malay businessmen, all the while trying to open up opportunities for minorities. Najib sees no contradiction in such a strategy. "Affirmative action remains in place, but the way it is carried out would be different," he says. "When it comes to helping the poor and the vulnerable groups, it should be irrespective of race. But there are certain affirmative actions which are still necessary, because the bumiputra are still very much behind and they must be helped. We want to help those bumiputra who are potential winners."

Even as he faces the daunting task of reforming Malaysia, Najib must deal with the domestic and international fallout from the divisive trial of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition's most prominent leader. In 2008, only months after the opposition's electoral success, Anwar was charged with sodomy, a serious crime in Malaysia. The trial has a déjà vu flavor. Anwar was convicted of sodomy in 2000 (and abuse of power a year earlier), but the ruling was overturned in 2004 and he was freed after six years in prison. Anwar has pleaded not guilty to the latest charge and attacked his trial as a politically motivated attempt to discredit the opposition. The government denies that, saying the courts have a duty to conduct a fair trial. Yet the case has tainted Najib's administration. In a joint essay in the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote that Anwar's trial threatens "all those in Malaysia who have struggled for a freer and more democratic nation."

The biggest test for Najib still awaits. All eyes are watching for the detailed policy prescriptions of Najib's NEM, which could be released in October. Some Malaysia experts expect the final package to be underwhelming. Najib "doesn't have the strength to follow through, whether politically or personally," says John Malott, a former U.S. ambassador to Malaysia. "He's not a transformational figure." Najib insists his critics underestimate him. "I want to transform Malaysia," Najib says. "I want Malaysia to be a 21st century nation and I am determined to do that." Malaysia's future — and new narrative — depends on it.

— with reporting by Liz Gooch And M. Krishnamoorthy / Kuala Lumpur

What the NEP meant and means

By P. Gunasegaram, TheStar 

We need more debate and less rhetoric in ironing out the real issues of affirmative action.

WITH all the brouhaha over Malay and non-Malay rights and the relentless rhetoric of race-based politics coming to the fore in the economic arena yet again, it is time to revisit the tenets of the original New Economic Policy (NEP) and separate fact from fiction.

Sadly, the major problem with the NEP is that the 30% equity target for Malays and other bumiputras became the very visible and de facto criterion for measurement of the very success of the NEP.

The other contentious part was quotas for all manner of things and preference given to bumiputra companies and individuals when it is related to procurements and contracts from the Government, often as a means to achieve that 30% target.

Both of these were administrative measures and targets and did not even form part of the policy aims of the NEP.

Very few people, if any, are likely to disagree that the broad twin aims of the NEP, formulated in the wake of the racial riots of 1969, were to eradicate poverty irrespective of race and to eliminate the identification of race with economic function.

The first aim, according to government figures, was very much achieved with hardcore poverty being virtually eradicated. And there have been major strides made in terms of Malays and bumiputras, and jobs with them making major inroads into all areas.

These are achievements of the NEP which no one can deny, although there are valid arguments and concerns such as whether the poverty line figure is a realistic one and whether there is too high representation of Malays in Government services even as they made inroads into the private sector.

While no one questions the twin aims of the NEP — everyone, including the Opposition, is in agreement — the problem is with the administrative measures that have been put in place.

These are being challenged by all sides: some sides want more and some less, some want them to be dismantled and others want them to not only be continued but reinforced.

So, let’s agree on the aims – and move on from there.

Thus, it will not be seditious if someone questions the 30% bumiputra equity target or says the measurement criteria are seriously flawed.

If someone said quotas should be reconsidered given the progress that Malays have made in some areas, that should not be interpreted as questioning Malay rights. Under the Constitution, the Government has the right to undertake affirmative action provided it is justified and it has the right not to.

The NEP (technically, the NEP has expired but the present policy still relies on the original NEP) and its future form will benefit substantially from the right kind of debate about it without emotions clouding the issues.

But there are some bodies and people who are bent on bringing in emotions precisely because it will cloud the issues. They must not be allowed to have their way.

Let’s take the 30% equity target for instance. It cannot be taken as the sole or even the most important part of NEP achievement because there are other things which are far more important – poverty eradication and racial balance in employment to name just two.

There is therefore nothing wrong in asking that this target be reviewed so that we can have better measurement of Malay and bumiputra participation in the economy and to avoid all the perils of patronage that come with this.

The same applies to quotas and bumiputra discounts for high-end property.

It is because the NEP has done so much in narrowing the gap between the races that there is a need to review some of its administrative targets to ensure that the wrong people do not benefit from it.

Bumiputras who have already made it don’t need quotas and affirmative action anymore. But others might.

But we must expect that some of those who will lose their so-called privileges will fight a rearguard action to preserve them, for that’s a way to quick riches when abused. These are the people who will benefit most by obscuring the real issues under a cloud of emotional rhetoric.

The time has come for all Malaysians to see beyond these and do what is right for everyone. Help everyone who is needy and if any particular race is more needy than another, it will automatically be helped more too.

Move to a needs-based system and you eliminate racial posturing and fighting just like that.

Who to trust in Selangor water battle?

ALARM bells were rung recently about an impending water crisis in Selangor. The federal government blames the state government for delaying the Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project by refusing to let building of the Langat 2 water treatment plant begin. The Barisan Nasional (BN) government says this will result in a water crisis as early as 2014, with shortages to be felt from 2012.
It all comes back to data. And what seems to have been forgotten is that the figures for the project crisis that the federal government arrived at have been contested. A group of non-governmental organisations, the Coalition for Sustainable Water Management (CSWM), has since 2009 alleged that projected water demand is grossly inflated to justify the RM9 billion interstate water transfer project.
In 2009, CSWM called into question the National Water Resources Study 2000-2050, commissioned by the federal Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in 2000. This is the study the federal government is citing to support their argument for the water transfer project. CSWM’s objections are well documented, available online, and have been given to the federal government. Until today, however, Putrajaya hasn’t explained the questions raised by the coalition. Instead, the BN appears bent on pushing the project through.
But who is the consumer supposed to trust, then?
(Pic by Bongani |
(Pic by Bongani |
Inflated data?
The federal government should explain the methodology used in the National Water Resources Study. CSWM contends that the recommended method for estimating water demand was not used. This method is adapted from the 1989 Public Works Department (JKR) Design Criteria and Standards for Water Supply Systems, and is endorsed by the Malaysian Water Association (MWA).
Instead, the method used in the National Water Resources Study was to estimate water demand by taking into account several parameters such as future Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, per capita GDP, and manufacturing sector output growth.
CSWM says such a method involving macroeconomic indices involves “unsupported assumptions” in projecting water demand. For one, it does not take into account changes in development plans and unforeseen economic scenarios.
The MWA/JKR method also recommends 320 litres per capita per day (l/c/d) in urban areas as the guideline for estimating water consumption. This rate is calculated from overall water usage by commercial, industrial and domestic use, and includes an estimated loss of 25% due to non-revenue water loss.
However, the EPU’s National Water Resources Study method breaks down water usage by sectors to estimate demand. CWSM argues that making separate projections for domestic, commercial, industrial and non-revenue water results in larger overall figures when projecting demand.
Using the MWA/JKR method would have concluded a projected water demand of 147 l/c/d in the year 2020 for the whole state. The National Water Resources Study method, however, arrived at demand that ranged from 139 to 611 l/c/d for the industrial sector alone.
Using the National Water Resources Study, the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry has asserted that daily demand for water in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya will reach 4,907 million litres. Without the interstate project and the Langat 2 plant, water supply will be 476 million litres short daily in 2014, the ministry claimed.
So is the EPU’s projected demand for water inflated or not? The Selangor government has different projections by which it claims the state has enough water without Pahang’s help until 2019. Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who said the state is looking at alternative water sources, has been challenged by Selangor Umno politicians to justify this position.
Additionally, Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia (Wecam) secretary-general S Piarapakaran says Selangor’s estimate of sufficient supply until 2019 is only true if water demand grows at a rate of 1% a year from now until then. Citing figures from the Malaysian Industry Water Guide, he says water demand growth is expected to be about 3% yearly, based on the 3.4% demand figure between 2007 and 2008.
Piarapakaran (Courtesy of S Piarapakaran)
Piarapakaran (Courtesy of S Piarapakaran)
Piarapakaran, a water engineer, tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview that other flaws in the National Water Resources Study, if rectified, would project an even higher demand for water. Hence, he says there may even be an increased likelihood of a water shortage sooner rather than later.
Three key flaws in the study, he says, were firstly, failure to take into account the worst-case low water flow scenario, which was what happened during the 1997-1998 water crisis aggravated by the El Nino phenomenon. The second flaw was for the study to fix non-revenue water loss at around 20% when the actual rate of loss now is higher at over 30%. And thirdly, the study, in estimating population growth, did not consider the high number of foreign migrants, legal and illegal, living and working in the state.
“The National Water Resources Study as a 50-year study is questionable. When you plan for 50 years for something like water supply and demand, you need to be able to adjust for every five-year planning cycle. This doesn’t seem to have been the case,” Piarapakaran said.
But he also takes issue with CWSM’s assertion that deriving an average l/c/d demand estimate from lumping together sectoral consumption is a better measurement than a breaking down water usage by sector. Piarapakaran thinks it’s less accurate if an overall average figure is used, in the same way gross per capita income is not a true reflection of individual income.
Will there really be a water crisis?
Who is correct? Water supply is an emotive issue and many remember the dry years of 1997-1998. The delay in restructuring Selangor’s water industry, and now the Langat 2 treatment plant under the inter-tate water transfer project, has been politicised to stoke fears of a repeat crisis.
The quality of data and methodology is important, and state and federal governments, as well as water industry players, have to be transparent about what they put into their projections. Selangor is commissioning a new study on water demand.
Compounding the public’s confusion about whether there is an imminent water crisis in Selangor is the standoff between the federal and state governments over the restructuring of four private water concessions.
The restructuring of the state’s water industry is a first step towards averting a near-term crisis, says DAP publicity chief Tony Pua, who also worked on the restructuring plan. He argues that if the state can take over the four water concessionaires – Syabas, Splash, Puncak Niaga and Abbas – and manage a consolidated treatment and supply operation, progress to cut non-revenue water loss can be stepped up.
That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, however. Syabas, for example, claims that Selangor is preventing it from continuing maintenance of pipes pending completion of the restructuring. Pua disagrees, saying the company’s inability to conduct pipe repairs and replacements is due to its cash flow problems, which began even before the restructuring exercise.
“If Syabas wants to resolve its cash flow problems to continue maintenance, they either let the federal government bail them out or accept the Selangor government’s RM5.71 billion takeover offer so the state can continue the work,” Pua tells The Nut Graph.
Right now, the battle over water in Selangor has become a battle of political wills and business interests. At the end of the day, consumers need to know if their tax money is being put to the best use to avert a water crisis. But in order for that to happen, greater transparency is needed on how studies are conducted, on water concession agreements, and on who stands to lose if the Pahang-Selangor water transfer project is delayed. For now, there seems little consumers can do or say to influence the outcome.

Teo Nie Ching apologises to Sultan of Selangor

DAP MP for Serdang Teo Nie Ching has issued a public apology to the Sultan of Selangor over the Surau Al-Huda incident. Her statement reads:

Pada hari Ahad 22hb Ogos, saya sebagai ahli parlimen Serdang telah mengunjungi Surau Al-Huda, Kajang bertujuan untuk menghulurkan bantuan berbentuk sumbangan kerajaan untuk memperbaiki pagar surau, dan berbuka puasa bersama ahli jawatankuasa dan jemaah surau.

Oleh kerana saya telah dijemput untuk memberi sepatah dua kata, saya dengan secara ikhlas memberikan sedikit penjelasan mengenai program pendidikan kerajaan negeri yang memanfaatkan rakyat Selangor.

Saya menyesal bahawa perkara ini telah menimbulkan perasaan keresahan antara umat Islam negara kita dan isu ini telah diperhangatkan oleh pihak-pihak tertentu atas sebab-sebab politik.

Saya ingin menegaskan secara ikhlas dan murni bahawa lawatan saya ke Surau Al-Huda tidak berniat politik, dan tidak bermotif untuk menyebabkan kesucian surau dan masjid dipersoalkan.

Saya menyambut baik pesanan, peringatan dan nasihat dari semua pihak mengenai perkara tersebut, dan akan dengan segala upaya, menjalankan tugas saya dengan lebih berhati-hati supaya tidak menimbulkan perasaan kurang senang dan perselisihan faham di kalangan umat Islam pada masa yang akan datang.

Akhir sekali, saya juga akan memajukan penjelasan dan permohonan maaf kepada Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Al-Haj, Sultan Selangor Darul Ehsan mengenai perkara ini.

Anwar Ibrahim again battles dubious sex charges

by Mark MacKinnon
Globe and Mail

Prosecution appears to be thinly veiled attempt to ruin Malaysian opposition leader’s reputation and political career

There is an uncomfortable pattern to life for Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic leader of Malaysia’s opposition. In 1998, shortly after he quit the authoritarian government of Mahathir bin Mohamad, he was convicted and jailed on trumped-up sodomy charges.

Six years after that conviction was quashed and he was released from prison – and just as it looked like he and his multi-ethnic coalition might finally oust the long-ruling United National Malays Organization from office – Mr. Anwar finds himself trapped in the most awkward of reruns, once more accused of “consensual intercourse against the order of nature.”

The charges again look to be a thinly veiled attempt to ruin Mr. Anwar’s reputation and sabotage his political career in this Muslim-majority country. The trial to date – dubbed “Sodomy II” in Malaysia’s unsubtle government-controlled press – has produced a succession of lurid headlines about lubricant tubes and stained underwear, while Mr. Anwar and his lawyers have been denied the right even to see the medical records of the man with which he is alleged to have had anal sex.

But instead of letting the scandalous court proceedings force him to the sidelines, the eternally optimistic Mr. Anwar has been using good humour and his ever-present BlackBerry to turn even the most awkward of headlines to his advantage, holding up the charges against him as proof of the absurdity of the system he’s trying to change.

As a lone judge contemplates whether there is evidence to convict Mr. Anwar and sentence him to up to 20 years in prison, as well as a flogging, Mr. Anwar has continued his ferocious assault on a government he derides as repressive and corrupt, blogging from the courtroom and sending cheeky and upbeat 140-character updates to his followers via Twitter.

“Sodomy circus turns into sex opera!” reads one of Mr. Anwar’s mid-trial posts, which linked to a video of a lawyer discussing the lurid details of the case. “Courage of conviction. Que sera sera,” was his response to a fellow Twitter user who worried the energetic 63-year-old was headed back to jail.

The odds do seem stacked against Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was once considered the rising star of Malaysian politics. But to hear him tell it, his déjà-vu legal ordeal is evidence that Prime Minister Najib Razak and his party are losing their grip on power, and they know it well.

“They can’t deal with me politically – either my economic programs or policies. They can’t debate me. So they resort to this ludicrous exercise to demonize me,” he said in an interview at the offices of his People’s Justice Party in western Kuala Lumpur, a confident grin fixed on his narrow, goateed face. “We will win the next election and we will change the courts.”

It seems unlikely things will go quite that smoothly. Mr. Anwar’s political career has seen his fortunes change as often and as quickly as the weather in this peninsula thrust between the Indian and Pacific oceans. The leader of a Muslim youth organization during his student days, he shocked his followers by joining UNMO in the early 1980s and taking a succession of cabinet posts in the authoritarian government of Mr. Mahathir, eventually rising to become his powerful finance minister and deputy prime minister.

But the two men never saw eye-to-eye on key issues, and they eventually fell out during the 1997 Asian financial crisis over economic policy and Mr. Anwar’s accusation that cronyism at the top was hurting the country’s economy. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Anwar – frequently held up in the West as an example of a moderate Muslim democrat – was in jail.

Though initially barred from politics upon his release, Mr. Anwar steered the opposition to a surprisingly strong finish in 2008 elections, and – even as the new sodomy charges were being laid –very nearly won the long-sought prime minister’s chair in the aftermath when he called for a vote of non-confidence in Mr. Najib’s government. Mr. Anwar said he had the support of a majority in parliament, including an unspecified number of UMNO defectors, but the vote never happened. Instead, 40 key lawmakers were sent on a government junket to Taiwan during which some were apparently convinced to rethink supporting Mr. Anwar’s bid for power.

The next election, which can be called any time before 2013, is set to be a high-stakes affair in this rapidly developing country of 28 million, which has seen freedom of speech blossom since the 2003 retirement of Mr. Mahathir and the rise of the Internet. Any kind of conviction would keep Mr. Anwar – who heads an improbable coalition that consists of liberal reformers like himself and an Islamist party that seeks to impose Koranic law – on the sidelines for another five years.

Mr. Anwar, a married father of six children, denies the new charges that he had sex with a 25-year-old former aide to Mr. Najib. (The sodomy law, which dates back to the British colonial era, has only been used seven times since independence, with four of those charges being levelled against Mr. Anwar.)

The case recently devolved into further farce when it surfaced that the complainant was having an affair with a member of the prosecution team. Though Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah acknowledged the affair as fact, he denied Mr. Anwar’s application to have the charges thrown out on that basis.

Mr. Anwar, who counts Al Gore, Nelson Mandela and former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin among his friends, said that while the Malaysian court system would do him no favours, he thinks his case is high-profile enough that the government won’t dare jail him again. “It’s a catch-22 for them. If they put me in jail, they invoke more sympathy, certainly the government will lose … And unlike Mahathir, Najib wants to be seen to be acceptable in the international community.”

Mr. Anwar’s undimmed ambition to be prime minister clearly infuriates his political opponents. Even in retirement, his mentor-turned-nemesis Mr. Mahathir uses his own blog to mock his former protégé and lash back at accusations that the case against Mr. Anwar is trumped up. “Could it be that it was actually the victim of anal rape who decided to tell things as they happened? I would like to say we should wait for the court to decide, but that can take a very long, long time or even never,” Mr. Mahathir wrote recently.

Despite a near-complete ban on his speaking to the official media, Mr. Anwar appears to be winning the public-relations battle, in part because of his savvy online efforts. A poll conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research shortly after the new charges were filed found that only 11 per cent of the more than 1,000 respondents believed the new sodomy allegations against Mr. Anwar. Two-thirds said they agreed with the statement that the trial was “a politically motivated action to disrupt Anwar Ibrahim’s political career.”

Malaysian Should Preserve What Have Been Achieved By The Country

KUDAT, Aug 28 (Bernama) -- Malaysians should make it their responsibility to preserve what have been achieved by the country after its independence 53 years go.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the people should be grateful for their prosperous life in a country which remained stable and peaceful.

"When the country was struggling to be free from the colonials, the people were poor and the country in a backward state.

"However, after achieving its independence and with the implementation of various policies and programmes, Malaysia has developed to become among the 37 best countries in the world.

"Among members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Malaysia is also among the best," he said at the handing over of Ramadan alms at Pulau Banggi near here Saturday.

A total of 120 residents of Pulau Banggi, comprising senior citizens, the poor, disabled, orphans and new Muslim converts received the alms.

MP draws flak over surau issue

The New Straits Times 
By Halimatul Hamid, Aidi Amin and Yiswaree Palansamy

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said it was up to the religious authorities to take any action on the issue of Serdang member of parliament Teo Nie Ching, who gave a speech at the Al-Huda surau in Kajang.

"We leave it to them to decide if any action should be taken on this matter.

"The religious authorities have the full power to act on such matters," Najib, who is also Umno president, said after chairing the party's supreme council meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre.

Teo, meanwhile, said she was disappointed that the matter had been blown out of proportion.

"I am disappointed and frustrated that my visit to the surau has been widely debated.

"I was invited to enter the surau by an ustaz and other Muslims who were there, and I did not do it deliberately."

Teo said she had gone to the surau to present a cheque as the mosque representatives had requested for aid to repair the fence of the surau.

"When I reached there, I was waiting outside the surau until they had finished their prayers to present the cheque but they continued asking me to come into the surau."

Teo said she asked repeatedly if she was permitted to enter the prayer area of the surau and the surau representatives unhesitatingly said that she could.

"I think the allegations hurled against me by a local daily is baseless. This matter has been blown out of proportion. I understand the sensitivity involved but I did not use the surau as a political arena as reported by the daily," Teo said.

In her speech inside the surau, she said she told surau representatives of the good news that the Selangor state government would provide scholarships to top achievers of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

"It is obvious that it (daily) has no better issue to write (about) than to look for ways to run down DAP," Teo, who is also DAP national assistant publicity secretary, said.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom said everyone must respect all places of worship to avoid misunderstandings.

"As far as mosques are concerned, Muslims must guard their modesty before entering and this also applies to non-Muslims," he said.

Selangor Islamic Religious Council chairman Datuk Mohd Adzib Mohamad Isa said the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, had expressed regret over Teo's actions and had demanded that stern action be taken against the surau committee members.

He said it was a serious matter because Teo was not only a politician but also a non-Muslim.

Following the incident, the council has assumed control of the surau administration.

Selangor mufti Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said that non-Muslims could enter a mosque but they were forbidden from giving talks or speeches.

In defending Teo, Pas Information chief Idris Ahmad said she was merely giving a speech on how those in their golden years could improve their quality of life.

What ‘depoliticisation’ really means

The Sun 
by Tunku 'Abidin Muhriz

THE  allegations of racism against the principals of SM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in Kulai, Johor, and SMK Bukit Selambau in Kedah have once again provided ugly headlines and agitated rants on blogs. If the purported remarks really were said then every right-thinking Malaysian would find them to be repulsive – what more that they took place in a school named after that righteous destroyer of racism, our Bapa Merdeka.

These episodes have once again revealed the inadequacy of a centralised, government-controlled education system. If these incidents occurred in private or properly autonomous schools, the will of the parents would have prevailed by now. There might have been an internal inquiry, perhaps a ballot within the parent-teacher association, followed by disciplinary action or sackings. The issue would have been dealt with at the local level with little fuss and nearly no cost to the taxpayer. 

Instead, what we have is a government committee to conduct investigations. We have endless accusations and denials. We have all the entire competing histories of May 13, 1969 being broadcast across cyberspace, again. We have opposing Facebook groups: Sokong Cikgu Puan Hajah Siti Mangsa Politik versus Tidak Sokong Cikgu Puan Hajah Siti competing for "likes".

Well, absolutely right that she is a victim of politics. She is a victim of politics because education itself has been politicised, and because it is the minister, and not the parents, to whom teachers are answerable. What is worse, however, is the fact that many of my fellow commentators find it adequate for the teachers merely to be sacked or transferred. This does not properly deal with the issue one iota.

I repeat (three times!) that the solution is not to sack or transfer teachers if the government deems them naughty. Instead, it is far better to subject the entire teaching profession to a proper market where the demands of parents come first, without government interference. This would enable parents to apply whatever criteria they want in judging the individuals who are to teach their offspring. One criterion might even be merit – a characteristic that individuals, rather than groups of people, are usually perceived to possess. (I am intrigued by this idea that an entire race can be deemed to be meritorious than another. Anyway, as a classical liberal I am less interested in "meritocracy" than in choice ie if parents only want Muslims to teach their children, then that is entirely their right, and I defy anyone to tell any parent that they should not be in overall charge over the education of their children.)

That is why we in IDEAS have from our inception pressed for government schools to have more of the same freedoms and autonomy as private schools, so that sordid events like these can be dealt with locally rather than becoming full-blown national issues guaranteed to embarrass our country across the world.

It is in such ways that real "depoliticisation" takes place. In order to remove all possibility that things might be politicised, you need to remove as many remnants of the state as possible from the institution in question. The standard objection from the Left is that not everyone is capable of making the "correct" choices, and therefore government must make choices for certain people (usually defined as some sort of "group"). Leaving aside the condescension, it is still entirely possible to fund things out of public monies while ensuring sufficient checks and balances, standards and ethical procedures within the relevant institutions to ensure that they are responsive to the demands of the user and more important, that they do not become a tool for the ruling political party.

To those of us inspired by the likes of Ibn Khaldun and John Locke, who both wrote extensively about the need for limited government, the benefits are frustratingly clear.


IDEAS is looking for interns. If you’ve got a couple of months to spare and are interested in education and/or parliamentary reform in Malaysia then please email us at with a CV. We do pay, but we’re even more generous when it comes to free meals.

Food security: Are we doing enough?

By Anil Netto,

Global food prices are projected to rise in future as a result of changing weather patterns, water scarcity, higher oil prices and increased demand from emerging markets like China and India.
Agricultural and farming research centre in no...
Agricultural research station, Thailand
As if that’s not enough, financial speculators are turning their attention to agricultural commodities and gambling on food products. See the Spiegel article here and the Green World Investor blog here.
We were warned in 2008 of a global food crisis. But have we learned any lessons? Are we doing enough to promote food security and sustainability in Malaysia (other than corporate agriculture)?
While we are obsessed with FDI, are we doing enough to chart out a sustainable – and the key word is sustainable or organic – agriculture blueprint that would meet the needs of our people in the future? Read more

Najib: We must have zero tolerance for racism

Dr M gives Najib an earful on NEM

Najib plans 'heart to heart' talk with Taib

(Malaysiakini) Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said he will have a "heart to heart" discussion with Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud on the future of the state's leadership.

He said Abdul Taib's party will continue to be the pillar of the BN in Sarawak, and it is only fair to discuss with them first before any decision is made on the state's leadership.

"Whatever decision that will be made will be based on the spirit of loyalty and friendship," he said in a brief press conference after chairing an Umno supreme council meeting today.

Najib was commenting on news reports that Abdul Taib was mulling retirement after helming Sarawak for 29 years.
On claims by Pakatan Rakyat that Umno was responsible for the on-going spat between DAP and PAS over the latter's intentions to implement hudud law.

Pakatan leaders had blamed the government-controlled mainstream media of blowing the matter out of proportion to hide the government's wrongdoings, such as the RM52 billion bumiputra sharescandal.

Najib said Umno have no idea what was going on between the two opposition partners, aside from the obvious cracks in the Pakatan.

"What we can see is the clash of positions on such a fundamental issue. It shows that their coalition is fragile... I don't see how they can be honest with each other if they are so opposed on such an important issue,” he said.
No selective prosecution
On the charge brought against three teenagers for vandalising a surau in Negeri Sembilan, Najib said that the government does not practice selective prosecution when it comes to racial or religious matters and will follow the law to the letter.

"We do not want anyone to twist this issue, as if we practice selective prosecution," he said.

When asked to comment on Utusan Malaysia's report attacking DAP's Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching for speaking at a surau, Najib said he will leave it to the religious authorities to deal with the matter.

Polis Raja Di Malay-sia up to their police murder again

(See The Star 27/8/10 at page N 36)

Washington Post article on Hindraf and Malaysian Hindus persecuted


Malaysia – Is it moderate, and is it modern?
By Ramesh N. Rao  
Malaysia has been seen as a beacon of modernity and a country promoting and practicing moderate Islam. In a recent "On Faith" essay, Prof. Katherine Marshall (Malaysia’s Cool Imam) offers Malaysia as a good example for South Africa to follow regarding the legacy of racial inequality, and argues that the "lively debates about cool imams, how to curb child marriage, and what should be taught in schools" are "healthy symptoms of a complex society confronting the complicated realities of racial and religious identities in modern times."
Malaysia’s minorities, she claims, are largely Chinese and Indian, and that they are mostly Buddhists and Christians. But it is the Chinese (23 percent) who are mostly Christian and Buddhist, and the Indian minority (7 percent) is mostly Hindu. Given the size of the Chinese minority, the Malay state has made allowances for their inclusion and some influence in the affairs of the country, though the Chinese minority too is worried about the increasing and radical Islamization of the country. But the Hindu minority has suffered the brunt of Malaysia’s discriminatory policies and Islamic decrees.
The Hindu American Foundation, in its annual Human Rights Reports, has carefully documented the discrimination against Hindus. A few examples will suffice.
On August 4, 2010 Judicial Commissioner Yaakob Sam pronounced that 28 year-old Banggarma, a Hindu mother, was is officially a "Muslim" despite her plea that she is a Hindu. According to the judge, the document that she was converted to Islam, at the age of eight, and while in an orphanage is enough to prove that she is a Muslim! How could Banggarma, as an abandoned eight-year old in an orphanage, be considered competent to have made such a decision voluntarily?
On August 15, 2010, Waytha Murthy, President of Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), wrote in a memo to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting 2,237 full scholarships and seats in universities in India for Malaysian-Indian students segregated and denied scholarships, student loans, and refused imageseats in colleges and universities by the Malaysian Government.
Hindus, who remained largely silent until 2007, began to challenge the government’s discriminatory practices. On November 25, 2007, nearly 10,000 Hindus, led by HINDRAF leaders, organized a peaceful rally to protest the discriminatory policies pursued by the Malaysian government. The Malay authorities broke up the rally using tear gas and chemical-laced water under the pretext of maintaining national security. Following the event, the Malaysian government began to crack down on the Indian and Hindu communities, and hundreds of Hindus, including five HINDRAF leaders, were arbitrarily detained and arrested for asserting their basic democratic rights.
Malaysia has a parallel court system — secular courts for non-Muslims, and Sharia courts for Muslims. Hindus and other minorities have recently been forced to deal with the Islamic courts where they have faced severe disadvantages. In one case, a Hindu mother, Subashini Rajasingam, lost an appeal to prevent her husband, a recent Muslim convert, from changing their four-year-old son’s religion to Islam. The highest court in Malaysia subsequently affirmed the ruling of a lower federal court, granting the Muslim husband a right to use the Islamic Sharia courts to seek a divorce and also upheld his right to convert their child to Islam without the mother’s consent.
Islam has permeated all aspects of Malaysian society and towards the end of 2008, the National Fatwa Council, Malaysia’s top Islamic body, issued a fatwa (edict) banning the practice of yoga for Muslims. The council ruled that: "yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship," effectively denying Muslims the freedom of religion.
There are 23,000 Hindu temples and shrines in Malaysia, but the government has refused to grant them land or record their land holdings as done for Islamic places of worship. Hundreds of Hindu temples have been demolished, and some relocated near garbage dumps and sewage tanks.
There are anywhere between 150,000 to 200,000 Malaysians of Indian origin without birth certificates and/or identity documents. Darshini, an eleven-year-old girl, for instance, was denied her birth certificate because her mother had not registered her birth within the required 42 days, as the father, a crane operator, was away working in Penang. It is reported that the Malaysian authorities rejected her application so many times that she stopped trying. The estimated 200,000 third, fourth and fifth generation Malaysian-born Indians have been denied Malaysian citizenship and are currently stateless. The government has neglected or willfully ignored the status of these people as contrasted with the way Muslim immigrants are treated from neighboring Indonesia and the Philippines who are granted immediate citizenship.
Finally, in one of the worst incidents reported worldwide, in late August 2009 Malay Muslims protested the relocation of a Hindu temple to their locality from another in Shah Alam by kicking and spitting on the head of a cow (cows are considered sacred and are revered by Hindus) they had just slaughtered. When HINDRAF leaders held a peaceful candle light vigil in protest, sixteen of them, including their legal adviser were arrested.
Would we still advocate that South Africa follow Malaysia’s example?
Ramesh N. Rao is the Human Rights Coordinator for the Hindu American Foundation, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre, Longwood University.