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Monday, September 13, 2010

Hindraf challenges Umno to call Mahathir’s bluff

By Joe Fernandez - Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi has challenged Umno to call former prime minister Mahathir’s Mohamad’s bluff on Perkasa, the NGO that claims to be assisting the ruling party to keep its Malay vote bank intact.

Mahathir had claimed that Malay voters would desert Umno without Perkasa which, according to him, has substantial Malay support.

“It’s not true that Umno will be even weaker than it is now without Perkasa as Mahathir claims,” said Hindraf’s London-based chairperson P Waythamoorthy. “Umno will be in even deeper trouble if it continues to associate itself with Perkasa. Already, it has only 35.6% of the parliamentary seats, that is, 79 seats.”

He was speaking with FMT by telephone from London after Mahathir issued a statement implying that Umno needs Perkasa more than the latter needs the former.

Mahathir was flogging the line that “it was more important for Umno to worry about keeping its Malay vote bank intact than place greater emphasis on its relationship with its fellow component parties in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition”.

Waythamoorthy noted that Umno was getting increasingly weaker, which is Mahathir’s worry, but not for the reasons that he has trotted out in public. Umno is weak because it not only has no ideology whatsoever but has run foul of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, said the Hindraf chair, and mismanaged the New Economic Policy (1970-1990), the economy and race relations.

“The Malays themselves have increasingly realised that Umno is not for all of them but just a handful trading on their name,” charged Waythamoorthy. “If Umno has any ideology at all, it’s jealousy of the Chinese in business.”

'Perkasa approach will fail'

Mahathir, said Waythamoorthy, belabours under the misconception that twisting and turning every issue into a racial issue will scare the Malays into circling the wagons under a common platform, Umno, against the non-Malays. Such tactics, he surmised, will no longer work after more than half century of independence.

He explained that the Perkasa approach will fail because the Malays will no longer be used again by the ruling elite for their own self-serving agenda, the passage of time has matured Malay politics, the Malays are too large a community to root for one political platform, the opposition is now Malay-led and increasingly better organised, and the alternative media has broken the stranglehold of the mainstream media on public thinking.

“Perkasa and Mahathir are dated. Umno should reject both in no uncertain terms as history and go back to the drawing board if it wants to remain relevant,” said Waythamoorthy. “But that doesn’t mean that Umno needs the BN component parties more than ever.”

Asked to elaborate on his statement, the Hindraf chief stressed that Umno must drop the fiction that the ruling coalition represents the democratic will of the people.

“BN was something that happened in the wake of the May 13, 1969 riots when non-Malay leaders decided to sue for peace with the ruling Malay elite at the expense of all Malaysians,” said Waythamoorthy. “It’s not a democratic set-up at all and should be discarded.”

The BN concept, said Waythamoorthy, circumscribed the democratic process by endorsing elite power-sharing and tacitly denying the grassroots majority meaningful participation in the electoral process.

The Hindraf chair’s main concern with Umno is that it may not give up power even if it’s defeated at the next general election. To prevent this distinct possibility, he urges the ruling party to re-invent itself “to ease itself eventually out of power gracefully and become a loyal opposition”.

Waythamoorthy sees the need for Umno to get away from the BN coalition which he describes as saddled with mere passengers like the MIC and MCA, among others. Instead, he urged Umno to leave the BN coalition and open its doors to Indian and Chinese membership in particular in Peninsular Malaysia and withdraw from Sabah.

“It’s time for Umno to get away from discredited race-based policies and politics and emerge as a truly multiracial platform as envisaged rightly by founding father Onn Jaafar,” said Waythamoorthy. “This is one of the two paths to political salvation for Umno.”

The other path, said Waythamoorthy, is for Umno to weed out the distortions and deviations in the implementation of Article 153 and the NEP.

Dustbin of history

The NEP, which takes its inspiration from Article 153, pledged the elimination of poverty irrespective of race, religion, class and colour, he pointed out. “It also pledged to eliminate the identification of race with economic function and place of residence.”

On Bumiputera equity, the Hindraf chief reminded that it was not meant to be a sapu bersih (clean sweep) of the entire economy but merely confined to a 30% stake in the corporate economy, that is, companies listed on the local stock exchange.

Likewise, Article 153 is not another sapu bersih clause in the Federal Constitution, argued Waythamoorthy, but one that provides for a reasonable proportion for the Malays and Natives in four areas, namely intake into the civil service; intake into institutions of higher learning owned by the government and special training privileges; government scholarships; and business opportunities created by the government.

“This is the special position recognised by the Federal Constitution for the Malays and Natives but they were only supposed to last 15 years after independence,” said Waythamoorthy. “The Federal Constitution makes no mention of special privileges for the Malays and Natives.”

Umno, said Waythamoorthy, should stop harping on the so-called special privileges – Perkasa’s constituency -- and seek a way out of its current political dilemma or be consigned into the dustbin of history.

Guna's death is police's fault, claims lawyer

(Malaysiakini) The coroner's court today was told that the blame for R Gunasegaran's death in custody fell squarely on the police for their "actions and omissions".

Counsel M Visvanathan, who is representing Gunasegaran's family, claimed that the police had "expedited" Gunasegaran's death by assaulting him while he was in detention and failing to provide him emergency first aid when he collapsed.
NONEVisvanathan (left) added that the police officers involved in the case had failed in carrying out their duties, accusing them of refusing to act on information that they gathered from witnesses' statements.
"It appears as if there is a conspiracy among several parties in this case to keep the truth behind Gunasegaran's death from surfacing," he said in his submission at the inquest.
Visvanathan went further by accusing the six police witnesses of lying to the court and giving statements that contradicted each other on numerous issues.
He maintained that Gunasegaran died from a large injury measuring nearly a foot long and five centimetres deep on his chest caused by a kick allegedly made by Lans Corporal Mohd Faizal Mat Taib, and not due to a drug overdose as claimed by deputy public prosecutor Shashitah Mohamad Hanifa.
Gunasegaran, 31, who was arrested on a drug charge, collapsed while being fingerprinted at the facility between 6.45pm and 7pm while in police custody and was pronounced dead at 7.40pm on July 16 at Kuala Lumpur Hospital last year.
The police said in its official findings that Gunasegaran died due to drug abuse.

Visvanathan however agreed with Shahsitah's argument that the police officers involved had abused their powers and failed to follow procedure when carrying out their duties.
Officers were lax
Shahsitah earlier contended that the officers involved had failed to file a report on Gunasegaran's arrest as required, neither have they filed a report to this day on Gunasegaran's death in custody.
She added that the officers who detained Gunasegaran and four others in an anti-crime raid on July 16 last year did not make any notes in their pocket books.
The list went on with a clear violation of procedure when they recorded statements from the detainee witnesses at 2.30am and also contradictions between what was written in the station diary and the testimony of the officers regarding the time of the raid.
Earlier when taking the stand, Sergeant Major Rajinder Singh shot down an entry in the Sentul police station diary which recorded that the operation started at 3pm, saying that it was a mistake in the station diary while maintaining that the operation started at 5.30pm.
Shahsitah stressed that this failure to follow proper procedure shows a lack of responsibility among the officers involved and opened the police to "avoidable" accusations.
"However, what is clear is that the testimony of the experts must be considered by the court and it is difficult for the court not to accept the testimony that the cause of death is drug-related," she said.
Coroner Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin has set aside Oct 21 to present the court's findings.

Kelantan palace braces for ‘internal trouble’

By Zainal Epi - Free Malaysia Today,

KOTA BARU: The Kelantan palace is bracing for a long “legal battle” with the installation of Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra as the new Sultan today.
Words of the installation got around last week but none of the state officials wanted to comment on it. Even Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat declined to comment yesterday when asked by reporters.
However, the sultan’s sister, Tengku Merjan Tengku Yahya Petra, had questioned the legitimacy of installing a new sultan a few days before the event took place.
In a statement that appeared in a blog Just Read, she said a sultan would lose his throne on three grounds: his demise, his absence from the state (without valid reasons) for more than a year, and his abdication.
She said in the absence of the three reasons, any attempt to remove a reigning sultan by any other means would amount to a coup and treason.
She added that those who assisted in the act might find themselves named as conspirators.
Tengku Merjan urged the state and federal authorities to step in as the success of the coup would create a major national crisis.
Her statement came just a day before the installation.

Will Sosilawati's killers get a fair hearing?

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: The arrest of eight people in connection with the murder of millionaire businesswoman Sosilawati Lawiya and three others might solve the mystery of their disapperance since the eve of Merdeka Day on Aug 30.

But several legal issues remain to be debated as to whether those arrested will have a fair trial. FMT spoke to several prominent lawyers who expressed their reservations on the matter.

Senior lawyer M Kumarendran said Bukit Aman's director of CID, Mohd Bakri Zini, should wait for the prosecution to reveal details of the evidence gathered when the trial commences.

"He should not act in a manner prejudicial to the accused and deny them a fair trail. He should not have allowed himself to succumb to media and public pressure even though it's a high-profile case involving the lives of four people," Kumarendran said.

Yesterday, Mohd Bakri confirmed that four suspects, including a woman, aged 19 to 54, had confessed that they had killed Sosilawati, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Shansudin, 44, a CIMB branch officer Noorhisham Mohammad, 38, and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32.

The suspects apparently told investigation officers that they burnt the bodies of the four and their ashes were scattered in Sungai Gadong, Tanjong Sepat, about 15km from Banting town.

Investigations also revealed that one of the suspects, a 41-year-old lawyer, was the mastermind behind the killings and that he was assisted by his younger brother, also a lawyer, and six workers.

Kumarendran said evidence presented during the trial should not go against the basic principle of fair play where a person is presumed innocent of a crime until proven guilty.

"This case is already on trial by the media. Whatever is being reported might influence the judge who might form his own perception before hearing the evidence," he added.

He said Mohd Bakri has indirectly put pressure on the prosecution which cannot rely on cautioned statements of their confessions under Section 113 of the Criminal Prosedure Code (CPC).

"The issue here is that admissibility of cautioned statements under the CPC had been amended in September 2007, where it clearly states that it should not be used as evidence in any trial.

"However, the only exception on this was under Section 27(1) of Evidence Act, 1950, where statement made to police led to a discovery of a fact," he added.

He also said the prosecution still needed to rely on collaborative and circumstantial evidence in establishing a prima facie case against the accused.

Disciplinary issues

Another senior lawyer, T Gunaseelan, said everybody should be given a fair chance.

"No matter how gruesome or wanton the crime may be, the basic principle of fair trial for all the accused should be assured," he added.

Another lawyer based in Banting said he was aware that the 41-year-old lawyer has serious diciplinary issues with the Bar Council.

"Generally he and his brother are low-profile lawyers and they were well-cultured and well- mannered people," said the lawyer who declined to be identified.

He also said both of them were involved in some charity work in Banting.

Meanwhile, a check with the Selangor Bar revealed that both brothers were suspended by the Bar Council from practising in 2007 when they were fined RM2,000 over a land deal.

Both of them had appealed against the diciplinary board's decision in the High Court, and the court upheld the board's decision.

The matter is now with the Court of Appeal and set to be heard in October.

An official of the Bar confirmed that both brothers are still in practice, pending the appeal.

"They were given certificate of practice as legal assistants and not as partners... they are not allowed any legal documents or cheques belonging to the firm," the official added.

Ong still casts long shadow over MCA

By Teoh El Sen - Free Malaysia Today,

KUALA LUMPUR: Many may have thought former MCA president Ong Tee Keat would remain low key after he lost his top post to Dr Chua Soi Lek in the March party elections after the leadership crisis, but that could not be further from the truth.

Despite also being stripped of his ministerial position in June, Ong's presence is still very much felt -- if not feared.
But while talk is rife that he is set to challenge Chua in next year's party elections, Ong has so far decided not to commit on the possibility of himself making a great comeback.

Instead, according to Ong, he never left the political scene. In fact, the Pandan MP of late has been busying himself with community work and focusing on serving his constituents.

In a recent interview with FMT, Ong subtly lambasted Chua for stirring up the recent debate on Bumiputera equity, saying Chua is "21 years too late" in bringing this up as these were nothing new.
Ong, who said the current political discourses are just a repeat of the past, said the MCA already had long deliberated over the necessity of meritocracy and needs in place of a quota system.
Below are excerpts of the interview:

FMT: If ex-president Ong Ka Ting could attempt a comeback, couldn't you make a comeback as well?
Ong Tee Keat: People ask me whether I can come back or not; my answer is that I never left politics in the first place, notwithstanding that I was defeated in the MCA party elections on March 28 this year. So the question of whether I am coming back or not never arises. If a guy has never left the scene, then what do you mean by returning?
Hypothetically, if you really were to come back, would you do things differently from what you have done before?
This is hypothetical, but in all fairness, a person would certainly need to take stock of the past events. I think, given the advantage of hindsight, I do admit to a few things (that I could have done differently). Firstly, when we talk about party transformation, I think such transformation should not be confined to ideals that you propose but you must allow it sufficient time to be propagated and accepted by the grassroots. At the same time, we need to make allowance because 'transformational pain' might hurt certain people or quarters.
On top of that, one should not have too many battle fronts at the same time. When I took over the presidency, I kickstarted the PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) audit, and for the first time, the PKFZ (Port Klang Free Zone) came into the limelight and became a high-profile case. I underestimated the extent of involvement, implicating some party heavyweights. So all these actually were things I needed to give some thoughts to.
What about the party transformation within the party? Did you succeed in anything then?
(When I was party president) I did push for the proactive engagement of NGOs as dialogue partners. Not just some stereotyped meetings or fellowship sessions, but rather I was then trying to establish a mechanism to engage the NGOs. The various NGOs and not just the Chinese guilds and associations but also social interest NGOs and at the same times professional and religious bodies. I believe in soliciting their views, which would facilitate in our policy making. I also did attempt to push for direct presidential election, but unfortunately that did not gain sufficient inroads. Some of them (party members) did not buy into the idea.
Many people see Chua Soi Lek only as a transitional leader, what do you think of that statement?
I don't know. After the MCA party election made such a decision, I made no comments about the election itself, nothing on the outcome, nor have I ever commented on his (Chua's) leadership. Certainly, we need to abide by the outcome of the election.
In the few months Chua has been president, how do you gauge his performance? Has he stabilised the party?
Put it this way, I don't believe in the political semblance of stability. We want to know the true scenario. Of course, at this juncture, I choose not to comment on his leadership. Let the people decide.
On the recent more vocal MCA stand in asking for a gradual removal of the 30% Bumiputera equity, do you think Chua has managed to handle the issue well, or do you think MCA should go all the way? What would you have done?
The latest situation has spoken volumes on whether he (Chua) took it as a party stand or party demand or a mere proposal. I think by now it is crystal clear (what he stood for) because, later on, he put it out by saying that it was a "mere proposal", it was not an insistence or a demand.
But do you think it is fair to ask for this proposal?
To me, the same thing was said and elaborated as well as deliberated some 21 years ago. Meaning, he is 21 years too late. In 1989, the National Economic Consultative Council (NECC) was convened to deliberate on the post-NEP policy. That was the year I was an MCA representative in the NECC. Every week we had sessions and this lasted for three years.
These arguments were the things brought up as a party stand, not a mere proposal. Party representatives, including myself, a young MP in the MCA team then, deliberated extensively on the party stand that proposed the necessity for us to practise meritocracy and needs in the place of quota.
Do you agree with some people saying that Chua has already 'backed out' from his earlier position?
I remember what I said in 1989: the same thing is being uttered now. We did not just mention this in a skeletal form, we did not just say it in a single sentence then.
We deliberated and even cross swords with other debaters as well. We were then very well equpped. Honestly I was taken aback. I said 'after 21 long years, this was resurrected', but of course some people are taking it as something new. Talking about needs and merits is nothing new.
So are you still supporting this stand for the removal of Bumi equity?
Yes. In fact, I remember what I said and deliberated, and of course I stand by my argument. I did deliberate on the issue in the perspective that over the years, we have been overly obsessed with not just the ethnic quota but also the percentage of ethnic possession of national wealth.
Normally, we come across such figures as the 'Chinese X percentage" and the "Bumi percentage" whenever we talk about the distribution of national wealth.
But those figures are meaningless to me. Because when we talk about 'Chinese X percentage', it doesn't mean that that is the magnitude of national wealth distributed fairly and equally among all the Chinese. That might be possessed by a handful of Chinese. I think we should be mindful of the economic desparity between the 'have' and 'have nots' within the same ethnic group. I said all these in the late 80s.
I had said that, on the one hand, we talked about needs and merits but, on the other, it would not give us a correct perspective if we continue to be obsessed with the so-called 'ethnic percentage'.
As I have said, we should ensure a level playing field. Meaning, when we talk about equality we need equality in terms of opportunity. Equal opportunities don't equate to equal outcomes.
So you mean we should go for both equal opportunities and equal outcomes?
I am more concerned about equal opportunities. I don't believe that anybody can ever ensure equal outcomes. Because we have a host of other factors affecting the outcome. At the end of the day, it depends on how much effort you put in.
But of course at the same time, we consider the less privileged, that's where the element of needs comes in. Because the less privileged, especially the physically disabled -- those who are handicapped in one way or another -- are the people who need our special attention.
What do you think of Perkasa and its comments?
Again, this is what I call 'old wine in a new bottle': the kind of racial remarks made are the exact repetition of what we came across in the late 70s and 80s. The only difference is that now on the stage, we have a new set of players, playing the same tune. The same story plot, people uttering the same remarks.
Now that you are no longer holding a top party post, do you still feel you have support within the party for your political future?
Well I think we need to look at the bigger picture. And so far I have never ceased in engaging the people. Not just the electorate but people outside my constituency; not just through Facebook but through other means of communication. I wouldn't confine my scope of vision to within my party or just the party portfolio.
Given a worse-case scenario of a bleak future in MCA, do you have any thoughts of leaving the party for greener pastures, any thoughts of such a possibility?
No. In fact that has not crossed my mind so far because I had experienced worst ordeals in MCA in earlier years. At one time I was about to be expelled in 2003. Even then, I never harboured such a thought. When I am asked about where I place my loyalties, without hesitation I say my loyalty is with the people. And that doesn't mean I'm going to jump ship.
How is the party transformation initiated by the party leadership going?
I don't know. I have left the party leadership. I only came to know about issues linked to the party from the newspapers, just like any one of you. I have been totally kept away from the party in the few recent months.
Meaning no invitations?
Nope. Nothing.
Do you think this is a natural or deliberate move? So far the president has also not visited your constituency?
Let's put it this way: I never waste my time speculating. Not that I'm concerned over anything but because I think I have better things to do, more things that warrant my attention which are matters of public interest.
How do you think the party will perform in the next general election?
I don't know, since I don't have the benefit of knowing what the party is doing now. Certainly it is unfair for me to pre-judge the party's performance in any coming elections.
What are the real obstacles keeping the party from doing well?
Politics is a game of perception and definitely at the same time, we need to take cognisance of the fact that MCA needs to regain its credibility and this could only be done through convincing transformation. Meaning we not only need transformation, it must also be convincing. It must not be done just for a public relations exercise or sloganeering sake. It must be done thoroughly; you must convince the people that you are truly embarking on the path of transformation and that you have managed to produce some visible results. Result-oriented and public interest-driven. That's why I say perception (is important) because people form perceptions based on what they see. And if you can't produce results convincingly, how can you expect the people to have positive perceptions?

MCA rebukes Dr M for interference in Umno-Perkasa fray

Kong: BN thrives on the support rendered by every race, not only from the Malays.
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — MCA took a swipe at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today for claiming Umno needed Perkasa to maintain its support base, reminding the country’s longest serving prime minister that Barisan Nasional (BN) did not rely on Malay support alone.

MCA secretary-general Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said that while the party was happy with the stand taken by Umno leaders in rejecting the right-wing group, it regretted the remarks made by “a prominent public figure” which appeared to suggest the opposite.

Over the weekend, Dr Mahathir stepped into the Umno-Perkasa fray by warning the ruling party that it risked further electoral losses if it distanced itself from the Malay rights group.

“We regret to read the remarks by a prominent public figure who claims that Umno needs backing from Perkasa if it does not want to risk BN losing support.

“BN does not consist of only one political party, but is an alliance which comprises various political parties representing all the ethnic groups in Malaysia.

“Hence, BN thrives on the support rendered by every race, not only from the Malays,” Kong reminded in a statement here today.

In a twist to the country’s racially-charged political landscape, top Umno leaders united last week with their BN allies to reject Perkasa, acknowledging that any association with the right-wing Malay rights group and its controversial president Datuk Ibrahim Ali would only lead to further erosion of Umno’s support.

The move was quickly lauded by MCA leaders, who have made it no secret they were no friend of Perkasa’s.

MCA, however, has been alone so far in its fight with the Malay rights group and has even found itself pitted against its own ally Umno, whose leaders had until recently remained non-committal of their feelings for Perkasa.

In response to the Malay party's overt rejection, Dr Mahathir rebuked Umno for dismissing Perkasa and warned the party that it stood lose votes over the move.

During his Hari Raya open house last weekend, the ex-premier claimed that Umno was “not very strong” and could ill-afford to alienate even a single vote.

Kong, however, shot down Dr Mahathir’s views and claimed that BN, as a whole, would not be able to win the public’s support through its association with “extremist or xenophobic groups” as it needed the mandate from all groups in the country.

“Any form of linkage with extremist groups will incur a loss in vote count against the BN,” he said.

Kong also stressed on BN’s multiracial spirit and make-up, pointing out that any grievances faced by the people would be resolved via consensus between all ethnic groups.

“Thus, BN should not compromise nor tolerate any racist group or extremist comments by any individual or group from permeating.

“As a responsible political alliance which prioritises the country’s harmony, peace and security above all else, BN will ensure that the future of Malaysia will not be sacrificed through the regressive and flawed racial outlooks of Perkasa,” he said.

Bakun Dam may turn into a 'white elephant'

By Sarah Stewart - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: The RM7.3 billion Bakun Dam in Sarawak, already condemned as a catastrophe for the environment and tribal people, is now battling suggestions it could become a giant white elephant.
The dam, which will eventually submerge an area the size of Singapore, is finally nearing completion after suffering a series of setbacks and delays since its approval in 1993.

But at the last hurdle the project has stumbled again, with delays in winning the state government's permission to begin the flooding process and no deal yet on purchasing its hefty 2,400 megawatt output.

With ambitious plans for an undersea cable to feed the Bakun's electricity to the Malaysian peninsula now abandoned, the Sarawak government is the only feasible buyer -- leaving it with a very strong hand.

Negotiations with the dam developer Sarawak Hidro, a subsidiary of the national finance ministry, have reportedly been tough.

"It's a case where the owner of the project is naming an asking price that is very different to what the buyer would want," said Wong Chew Hann, an analyst at Malaysia's top bank Maybank.

"I understand there's quite a huge mismatch," she said. "I'm not sure what they've incorporated into the pricing, but the cost of the project has gone up so much since it was started."

As well as the cost of construction, there is the expense of compensating tribal people for their forced relocation from ancestral lands, and suppliers affected by the long delays.

"So the question is, are you going to incorporate all the compensation costs in the tariff price?" said Wong.

Bargaining chip

With the indigenous people from the Bakun catchment area long since resettled and its valuable timber resources long since felled, the dam has been ready to be flooded since April.

The state government had delayed permission, saying it was still evaluating river levels and the impact on boat transport.

A Sarawak minister reportedly said last week that the necessary permit has been granted, denying both that it had been used as a bargaining chip to lower the tariff and that Sarawak was facing an energy glut.

Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkiflie Osman played down suggestions that he has been held to ransom by the state government.

"Both parties are working together and want it to be settled amicably, with a tariff acceptable to both parties," he said, adding that he expected to strike a tariff deal before December.

The next of Sarawak's mega-dams, the Murum, which is being developed by the state government, is due to come online in 2013 but Osman said he was convinced the state authorities will not bypass Bakun in favour of its own project.

Alongside the power purchase negotiations, the federal government is also said to be discussing selling the entire Bakun facility to the state government, but pricing and finance problems have emerged.

The federal government was reportedly seeking RM8 billion while the state government offer was just RM6 billion.

Fierce criticism

The Bakun's output far exceeds existing energy needs in Sarawak, a relatively undeveloped state, and is mostly destined for industrial users such as aluminium smelters, but these are still on the drawing board.

"The main problem is that currently there is no demand for such a big capacity yet, and in order for Sarawak Energy to purchase the dam they would need adequate funding," said an analyst with a major research house.

"The banks would ask for some kind of feasibility study, and as there is no real demand yet this project risks becoming a white elephant," said the analyst, who declined to be named.

Transparency International has labelled Bakun a "monument of corruption" in Sarawak, which has been ruled for three decades by the formidable Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.

There has also been fierce criticism over the botched relocation of 15,000 indigenous people, who have made an unhappy transition to life in drab resettlement areas.

Baru Bian, chairman of the Sarawak PKR, said the Bakun project was designed purely to profit cronies, and not planned in the public interest.

"The dam is a waste of public funds, it's not necessary, and what is paramount is that it is disturbing and disrupting the lives of the natives and the environment -- the trees and the forests."


Surprise! Simultaneous polls

By JK Jayan - Free Malaysia Today,
COMMENT As the country gears up for the Sarawak state election, speculation is rife that the 13th general election is around the corner as well. There is a possibility that both elections will be held simultaneously.

It will be a master strategy for the Barisan Nasional leadership to have both elections at the same time as it will prevent Peninsular-based Pakatan Rakyat leaders from campaigning in Sarawak.
Pakatan leaders, who are keen on capturing Sarawak to provide a boost to their pursuit of Putrajaya, will be restrained to their respective constituencies.
Given Sarawak’s landscape and the short campaign period usually allocated for general elections, no Pakatan leader from the peninsula will dare waste precious time in Sarawak.
The Sibu by-election has taught some bitter lessons to the BN leadership. It revealed what will happen if key Pakatan leaders are allowed to campaign in Sarawak.
Catch-22 for BN
In Sarawak, BN is now faced with the formidable task of deciding whether to allow current Chief Minister Taib Mahmud to lead the election battle or to find a replacement.
Sources familiar with Sarawak politics say that while Pakatan is heading into Sarawak with some confidence, BN is in a “Catch-22” situation, saddled with problems and issues associated with Taib.
If BN retains Taib as chief minister, then they will be facing a barrage of questions and criticisms from the opposition regarding the corruption allegations against him.
On the other hand, if BN drops Taib, they will be losing one of the most experienced and seasoned leaders in the history of Sarawak politics.
BN will also be faced with the arduous task of naming a capable leader to lead the BN charge in Sarawak. The coalition will be torn between naming a Melanau Malay or a Dayak as the next chief minister and Sarawak BN leader.
BN will be able to turn the tables against Pakatan by dropping Taib and replacing him with a Dayak leader.
With just that one master stroke, BN will be able to drastically change the current political situation in Sarawak by soothing the feelings of the Dayak community and knocking out a key political strategy mooted by the Pakatan leadership -- to name a Dayak leader as chief minister in the event they win the state election.
Three factors favouring Pakatan
Three key factors seem to be favouring Pakatan in Sarawak. The first is their promise that the state will have a Dayak chief minister in the event Pakatan forms the next state government.
This may drive the Dayak community, which forms almost half of Sarawak's population, to support the Pakatan candidates.
The second factor is the promise by Pakatan to increase the oil royalty to Sarawak by a hefty
20% through which more development projects can be initiated. Neutral voters in Sarawak may be swayed by this.
The third factor is the backing of the Chinese community through DAP. The Chinese form 26% of the population in the state and their support can be the deciding factor in many constituencies.
Put together, these three factors can tilt BN’s fortunes in Sarawak even though the coalition is mightier in terms of election machinery and financial strength.If the Sarawak state election is held separately and if BN loses, it will have a profound effect on the parliamentary elections.
With the state administration under their control, the Pakatan leadership will be able to concentrate on the parliamentary seats in Sarawak and if they can win at least half of the 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak, then the prospect of BN forming the next federal government will be doomed.
1Malaysia backfiring
There are also other reasons why the BN leadership may decide against stretching their term of office until 2012 or 2013.
There is widespread speculation that the world will be hit by an economic downturn towards the end of the year or early next year. If this happens, it will also suffocate the Malaysian economy, which is already facing a decline in foreign direct investments (FDIs).
On the political front, BN’s chances of winning back the lost states and parliamentary seats in the peninsula look bleak. On the surface, it appears that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has managed to win some points with his 1Malaysia campaign.
However, the campaign is also backfiring on BN, with opposition to it coming from towering and influential personalities such as Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The Malay right-wing movement Perkasa is also punching holes in Najib's grand plan.
In 2012, most of the BN parties, including Umno, are expected to hold their party elections which will lead to infighting and backstabbing; and this will definitely reflect on the general election.
Although the party elections can be postponed after the general election, the undercurrent, especially, in Umno will be strong.
Dragging the general election until the last leg will only give more room to the opposition to prepare themselves. The infighting among the political parties in Sabah may worsen.
And if there are some negative outcomes from the ongoing French investigation into the submarine scandal, that too will affect the image of Najib’s administration.
On the same note, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim continues to be a formidable force with his sodomy trial having little or no impact on his credibility and popularity.
The recent revelation about the affair between a member of the prosecution team and the complainant is also working in favour of Anwar.
With so many uncertainties looming, there is every possibility that the BN leadership may decide to hold the next general election simultaneously with the Sarawak state election to catch the opposition by surprise.

Malay rights drowning out Najib’s reforms

Dr Mahathir remains critical of any type of reform which risks the status quo.
ANALYSIS, Sept 13 — As the Najib administration struggles to sell its economic reforms to a sceptical public, the process continues to be made complicated by political curve balls thrown by Perkasa, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and other Malay rights groups.

Using a tried and tested play book, these groups are using Malay special rights as a red herring to stop any discussion on reviewing New Economic Policy style policies or keeping Malaysia competitive.

Dr Mahathir added to this illusion when he said that Perkasa was born because non-Malays were questioning Malay rights.

Datuk Seri Najib also has his work cut out because he is not getting full support from Umno-owned media such as Utusan Malaysia.

Yesterday, an Utusan Malaysia editorial openly defied Najib’s instructions for Umno to begin distancing itself from Perkasa.

The editorial in Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia, backed Perkasa and raised questions about whether the daily was still in support of the party president.

The Umno-daily came out batting for Perkasa and pointedly echoed the views of the Malay rights group in response to Umno’s decision to distance itself from them.

Perkasa has already warned Umno not to be complacent about its vote base, claiming that only three in 10 Umno members were sure to vote for them in the next general elections.

The noise surrounding Malay special rights and Perkasa’s role in fighting for the Malays is beginning to drown out Najib’s reforms.

On Saturday, Najib spoke on regional satellite station CNBC arguing that “if we don’t make change, we don’t make reforms, Malaysia will slide backwards.”

Asked about Dr Mahathir and Perkasa, Najib said: “They are talking more about Bumiputera rights. But actually we are not taking anything away from the Bumiputera, but we are saying that let us do it differently. Let us get better results. Let us achieve a more equitable society. But at the same time, being fair to the non-Bumiputeras as well. Because we want to build a One Malaysia.”

But the PM’s words received little coverage in national dailies.

Perkasa, Dr Mahathir, and other Malay rights groups has already succeeded in throwing in the red herring of dismantling special rights in every discussion on race relations and making Malaysia competitive.

Reason: they want to stigmatise the discussion, the same way some people have stigmatised words like meritocracy and liberal.

Perkasa and Dr Mahathir are now complicating Najib’s option of calling for an early election.

Najib is understood to be weighing whether to call for snap parliamentary polls over the next six months, so as to secure a fresh mandate that will allow him to push ahead with painful political and economic reforms.

But there remains strong opposition towards the snap elections option.

The Malaysian Insider had reported last week that Umno warlords and key aides have been telling Najib to delay any idea of snap polls to secure his personal mandate.

Opponents to an early election say the Najib should not assume his personal popularity meant that the party is more acceptable to the people.

The Perkasa and Dr Mahathir factors may also cause another rethink.

Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa - down but not out yet

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Once riding high, Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali is now fumbling for support. Hence, the nonstop and rather nonsensical tirade against those Umno and BN leaders who have given him and his ultra-Malay rights group the boot.

So far, only former Umno president and Perkasa patron Mahathir Mohamad has spoken up for Perkasa. Mahathir has even warned Umno it might suffer further loss of popularity with the Malay voters if it cut its ties with Perkasa.

But Mahathir himself is a spent force, done in by his own racism and the slew of revelations that are starting to pour in about his corruption in the various mega and privatization deals hammered out during his 22 years in power.

Najib waits to see which way the wind blows

Ibrahim alarmed many with his drama
Nonetheless, not all is lost yet for Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa. There is still Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Despite the noisy break-up announced by Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan and cheered by Cabinet ministers such as Nazri Aziz, Koh Tsu Koon, and MCA leaders, Najib himself has kept mum.

But very telling is that the Umno-owned Utusan newspaper has supported Perkasa, even though its top editors were hand-picked by Najib.

“Yes, it is the typical two-faced politics of Umno. Some say Najib is being cautious. I think that is too kind a word. It is not caution, it is outright unprincipled, two-timing misrepresentation. If the Malay response is resounding they want Perkasa, Najib will be first to turn around, no doubt helped by Utusan,” Bukit Gantang MP Nizar Jamaluddin told Malaysia Chronicle.

“In such a case, the ones who will look like the real fools will be Tsu Koon and Soi Lek and the other non-Malay BN leaders for getting all excited over what is nothing more than another big bluff. Fortunately for them, there hasn’t been much response. Few Malays care about Ibrahim Ali and his nonsense but it is not just Perkasa that has faded but also Umno.”

The Muhyiddin misstep

Keeping a conspicuously low-profile is Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who has avoided a direct comment on Perkasa, saying that the “bigger picture” was more important.

Muhyiddin - burnt his bridges
“While we need to work for our community, we also need to respect the interest of other communities so that resentment and the feeling of lack of respect will not arise,” Bernama reported Muhyiddin as saying.

Since becoming the deputy premier, Muhyiddin has aligned himself to Mahathir rather than Najib. He has publicly criticized the PM's multi-racial 1Malaysia plan, earning himself a reputation for being a racist with his infamous “I’m Malay first”comments.

“Muhyiddin is also groping in the dark but it may be too late for him. He was silly to align himself so directly with Mahathir. You see, Mahathir can get away with all the racist comments because he is retired but Muhyiddin is not,” Gopeng MP Lee Boon Chye told Malaysia Chronicle.

“How can you be DPM of the entire country when you only consider the interests of the Malays to the point that you openly admit you put their interests first and foremost? How can the other races trust him for fair play and justice - he won’t bother. That is the message he has given.”

Ibrahim goes on publicity drive to garner sympathy

Meanwhile, in a sign that the “sympathy” response from the Malays has not been as much as what he had hoped to elicit, Ibrahim Ali has himself changed tack.

Nizar - Umno wayang kulit
He now wants a new political pact and has invited non-Malays to team up with Perkasa. At the same, he insists Perkasa will not enter politics.

“I have made the decision, I will co-operate with candidates who understand our stand including non-Malay candidates. I don’t care about race - only those who understand the Federal Constitution, who is of good character, has integrity, fluent in Bahasa Malaysia and ready to face the 13th general election,” Malaysian Insider reported Ibrahim as saying.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders ridiculed his inconsistency.

"He is talking nonsense. Perkasa has from day one been a political weapon for Umno, so how can it not be interested in politics? When Umno needs its services later on, Perkasa will suddenly be rehabilitated. Until then - to stay alive - Ibrahim Ali needs publicity. It will be one silly stunt after another," predicted Nizar.

Azmin speaks

By Ibrahim Ali,

I just got off the phone with YB Azmin Ali.

I drew his attention to my post “Khalid, aye or nay?”, and the e-mail dated 5th April that he is said to have sent to MB Khalid.

Would he want to respond to this allegation, I asked.

In the strongest possible terms, Azmin denied having authored this letter.

I asked about the blog reports linked in my post that suggested that he had supplied the doctored photographs of Zaid that were used by UMNO during the Hulu Selangor by-election.

Again, and in equally strong terms, Azmin denied this charge.

We chatted for a while.

I told him that I would continue to blog on the information that I am constantly receiving about the goings-on in PKR, and in particular about allegations that he and Anwar are on a Muslim agenda, because the public have a right to know, but will avail to him the right of reply.
Posted by Haris Ibrahim

Soi Lek on managing Malaysia

By Deborah Loh | The Nut Graph,
(Pic courtesy of MCA)
(Pic courtesy of MCA)
IN the first part of his interview with The Nut Graph, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek spoke about the need for the MCA to be more assertive in voicing the concerns of Chinese Malaysians. But the things the MCA supports – a secular state, a liberalised economy – puts it at odds with segments of Umno, the leader of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, and with right-wing Malay Malaysian groups like Perkasa.
Chua talks about how he views this challenge in this second and final part of an interview with The Nut Graph conducted at Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur on 6 Sept 2010.
TNG: Following up from your speech at the MCA’s Chinese Economic Congress – if your suggestions and resolutions can make Malaysia competitive, what, then, is needed to make these things happen?
Chua Soi Lek: First, the political will to change. All political parties in the world are the same. After too long in power, complacency sets in, and there is often abuse of the system and corruption. So [political will is needed to change], and I believe that development in a multiracial country is not a zero-sum game. When there is economic growth, everybody will benefit.
But in any society there will be some who benefit more than others. So affirmative action is still required. It should be based on needs and merits. If these can be placed in order, then we can liberalise the various sectors. And I specifically mentioned oil and gas, and telecommunications. These are three big sectors that need to be liberalised to make the economy more competitive, and to attract foreign participation and local participation.
Did you have feedback that Chinese Malaysians involved in these three sectors are being disadvantaged?
No, I don’t have the figures. I’m not just talking about the Chinese, I’m talking about all communities in Malaysia. Oil and gas are monopolised by Petronas. Telecommunications is monopolised by a few big players, foreign and local. So we need to open up.
Is there strong enough Malay leadership to push this through?
To be fair, I think [Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak] has that quality. He is a good listener, he’s bright, he’s got a good memory, he’s committed and he’s fair. Now the question is political will to change.
His political will or that of Umno’s?
His and that of his colleagues within the party to respond to a changed political scenario after March 2008.
And if such political will is slow in coming, what should parties like yours and other BN components do?
That’s why we’ve become more vocal. We just want to make our views known.
Is Umno‘s leadership doing enough to distance the party from Perkasa?
I think they are not doing enough. I’m very clear in my mind that [Perkasa] is not linked to Umno. But nobody can prevent [Tun Dr] Mahathir [Mohamad] from attending Perkasa functions. You know Mahathir – he chooses what he wants to do. But if he wants to be associated with Perkasa, there’s nothing you and I, or Najib, can do.
If Umno is unable to successfully distance itself from Perkasa, what are the consequences for national politics?
The Chinese [Malaysians] have to be very clear that there is no way we can create a small China in Malaysia. We all have to accept the fact that we live in this multiracial society, whether you like it or not.
And in order to make this work, no government in power would take away the privileges enjoyed by Malay [Malaysians] right now. No one. [Datuk Seri] Anwar [Ibrahim] has never really stood up to say he would reject Malay special privileges. Mana ada? And I don’t think DAP would dare to demand it either.
But the Chinese [Malaysians] are all hoping. The Chinese community’s expectation is that if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power, it will remove special privileges. I don’t think this will [happen]. But because [DAP] never said [that it will actually remove special privileges], the Chinese expect it. This is a case of “nothing said is better than said” by DAP. So what I’m telling the Chinese community is, we have to accept the political reality in this country that it will [always] be a balancing game. Balancing the needs of all the races.
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali
And part of this balancing game is for Umno to lend its ear to Perkasa?
The balancing game is for Umno to take care of the Malays, to take care of the Chinese, Indians and other minorities. To me, Perkasa is the minority of the minority, you quote me on this please. Only the Chinese get very excited over Perkasa, and because [Perkasa] knows they excite the Chinese and the media, they’re getting a lot of attention. They will continue to speak so that they will have a platform of their own. And we are all walking into that trap. The best way to deal with them is to ignore them.
Doesn’t Umno employ the same tactic in rousing Malay Malaysian support? Because you’ve noted in your speech at the Kedah MCA convention on 6 Aug 2010 that Umno has become conservative in recent years to compete with PAS.
I won’t say that Umno is becoming like Perkasa, that’s not fair.
But you said they have become more conservative…
Conservative in the sense that they become more religiously sensitive so that PAS cannot be seen as [having] the exclusive monopoly on Islam.
If Umno’s religious conservatism continues, what’s the consequences of that for component parties and national politics?
We must learn to co-exist. Umno’s religious conservatism will never, never be on par with PAS.
You say the public shouldn’t give the Pakatan Rakyat a chance to form the federal government as they would continue bickering over hudud law. But what about the fact that the BN in Terengganu has not done anything to remove hudud law that the PAS state government approved in 2002? Shouldn’t this be something that the MCA should push for, for the sake of consistency?
No. I won’t be pushing … You cannot implement hudud law at state level until you amend the Federal Constitution. So why are you pushing something which is a no-go? I’m very focused. I won’t want to waste time on something that’s a no-go. And MCA would definitely object to any implementation of the hudud law, simple as that.
Are you personally for a secular state?
This is definitely a secular state as provided for in the constitution.
That would be a contrarian view to some conservatives in Umno who want an Islamic state as well. Since the MCA is Umno’s colleague in the BN, how can you then convince Chinese Malaysian voters to support MCA-BN?
The Chinese do not understand the difference between an Islamic state propounded by PAS with hudud law, and what [we have now as] a secular state. We insist that [this] is a secular state. [There's no need to] talk every day about Mahathir‘s pronouncement. We should not be carrying the baggage of what our previous leaders have said.
Chua among MCA delegates in 2008
Chua among MCA delegates in 2008
The simplest message [for the Chinese Malaysian] is, [look at] what you have now. Can you survive in an environment where every level is being Islamised with Islamic values? [Where there will be] stress on Islamic education, Islamic values, Islamic law, a hudud system? Can the Chinese adapt themselves to an environment like that, compared to what we have right now?
Some would say that Islamisation is already happening right now. For example, some parents complain that it is happening in schools.
No, that’s not true. Islam is the official religion. [It's] whether the Chinese can accept what they have now, compared to what they will have if PAS comes to power. [If Pakatan Rakyat] comes to power, DAP, because of the system of cabinet and the numbers game, will not be able to check PAS. DAP will be powerless. Because in this country, it’s the prime minister who calls the shots.
With Malaysia Day coming, and to close this interview, what’s the way forward for Malaysia?
The way forward is that we must know how to co-exist in a multiracial country. Without harmony, whatever great programme there is will come to nothing. Any party that wants to come to power in this country must know how to manage the complexity of managing a diverse population, and that’s not an easy thing.

Competitiveness Not Unity Basis for Strength

By M. Bakri Musa

Hardly a day goes by without Malay leaders of all persuasions lamenting our lack of unity. If only we are united, they earnestly assure us, we could take on the world!

I respectfully disagree; their conviction is misplaced. The force that would make Malays strong is not unity rather competitiveness. If we are competitive, then our place in Tanah Melayu (Malay Land) or even Dunia Allah (God’s World) would be assured. If we are not, then we would forever have to be indulged with such silly fantasies as Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Hegemony). We would perpetually have to pin our hopes on such political amulets as Article 153 of our constitution (guaranteeing our special status).

Our leaders’ quixotic quest for “unity” is not only misplaced but also distracting. It distracts from the pressing challenge of making us competitive.

These leaders’ obsession with unity is misguided for another reason. They take unity to mean unanimity. To them we are not united unless we parrot their views. Any disagreement is an expression of “disunity.” They prefer us to be like a flock of sheep.

They would like us to believe that their leadership is of the shepherd leading the flock from one lush meadow to the next, ensuring that no one is left behind or be preyed upon. J.S. Bach’s cantata Sheep May Safely Graze (BWV 208) is a beautiful rendition of this benign biblical imagery of the pastoral ideal.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that far too many of our leaders today are sly foxes cloaked in shepherd’s clothing. Instead of tending to us, they would be the first to prey upon us. Instead of protecting us from the elements, these “shepherds” would ensure that they have their istana kayangan (fantasy palaces) first, and if there were the odd lumber pieces left over, only then could the flock hope to have a wall to their shed.

We have nine sultans, all fabulously wealthy luxuriating in their Shangri la palaces at taxpayers’ expense; likewise our political leaders, as obscenely exemplified by former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. I challenge anyone to name a charitable foundation funded by any of them.

These are the leaders who are forever exhorting us towards “unity.” It is a unity to serve their purpose, not ours.

Strong Pillars of Society

This quest for unity is foolish for yet a third reason. A collection of weak twigs no matter how tightly bound (“united”) will never make a strong pillar. Likewise, a community will never be strong no matter how united its members are if individually they are weak.

A strong pillar requires top quality cement and steel re-bars. If the cement is corrupted with too much dirt, the pillar will not be strong or enduring; likewise if the re-bars have been weakened by corrosion.

The sturdy pillars of a community require citizens (cement) of high quality (productive) and leaders (re-bars) of uncompromising integrity (uncorrupted). Endlessly exhorting for “unity” would be a poor substitute for either.

History is replete with examples of societies once destined to perpetual servitude today commanding great respect. We can learn from them; there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

The Koreans, long colonized and brutalized by the Japanese, are today besting their former masters. Yes, the Koreans do occasionally pay homage to their patriotic passion for unity with their brethren to the north. Likewise the Irish; occasionally they too would stir up their republican nationalism with calls for unity with their compatriots in Northern Ireland. However, after the rousing speeches, patriotic singing, and exuberant flag waving they would be back hard at work on matters that really count – being economically productive.

The elements contributing to the strength of a society are its social, human, and financial capitals, in that order. Focus on these three and forego the illusory quest for unity. Besides, unity is more likely to be achieved once we are prosperous; then we would more likely be generous not only materially but also in our views and attitudes.

We can borrow financial capital, and to some extent human capital, through liberal immigration policies a la America, but not social capital; hence the order of importance.

Developing financial capital means we must save more and forego current consumption. Additionally, we must have efficient intermediaries to connect owners of capital (savers) to its potential users (entrepreneurs and businesses). Even in a well regulated economy, these intermediaries can sometimes stray and be negligent in their fiduciary obligations. The consequent wreck they impose on the economy and on our lives can be considerable, as Americans are currently experiencing, and as we did in 1997.

As a community, Malays mistrust banks and other interest-charging institutions. The successes of Islamic banks and mutual fund-like entities as Tabung Haji indicate that this can be surmounted and that we are aware of the merits of savings.

Our cultural tendency for conspicuous consumption abetted by the gaudy examples set by our leaders (huge weddings stretching for days) results in us having the lowest savings rates, and thus a thin financial capital base. Not a strong springboard to catapult our development. Yes, we can borrow but if we are not productive then we would not be able to service the loan.

Human capital refers to the skills, knowledge and other attributes of the citizens that would enable them to produce something or a service that is of value to society. We enhance human capital through health and education.

Improving health begins with such basic essentials as providing potable water, reliable electricity, garbage pick-up, and unclogged drains as well as elementary and inexpensive public health measures like vaccinations. Then consider the vast number of Malay kampongs that lack these basic amenities.

We improve the skills of our people through quality education. Quality is measured not by years of formal schooling or resources allocated rather by how effective our schools and teachers are. The OECD’s Program for International Students Assessments has shown that economic productivity is causally linked to quality education.

Put differently, Malaysia’s aspiration of quadrupling the per capita income within a decade would forever remain a dream unless we improve our schools and universities. Poland has demonstrated that a commitment to reforming education could produce results as early as a few years, and with that, commensurate improvement in economic performance.

Malay educational achievement lags behind the other communities. Closing this should be our top priority, not meaningless pursuit of empty unity. Subsidize education and healthcare if need be. In truth they are not subsidies but prudent and profitable investments in human capital. It is also the right thing to do.

Social capital refers to the relationships we have with each other; the shared norms, values and understanding which facilitate us working together. Any relationship, economic or otherwise, must begin with trust, a crucial component of social capital. Banks would be chronically crippled by “bank runs” if depositors lacked trust in them. The current crisis in the West is in part a manifestation of “bank runs” on “shadow banking” institutions by major (corporate) depositors. Likewise, even the most meticulous contract crafted by finicky lawyers cannot substitute for trust. Only peace treaties imposed by the victor upon the vanquished do not involve element of trust.

Perversely our preoccupation with unity with its attendant intolerance of divergent views erodes our social capital and poisons our relationships, in economics and other areas. It makes an UMNO government deny contracts to competent Malays simply because they sympathize with the opposition. We already see this poison spread to other spheres, as with some mosques reserved only for UMNO Malays.

By focusing less on our misguided quest for “unity” and more on learning to tolerate the differences amongst us, we enhance our social capital. I would go beyond simply tolerating to embracing and welcoming these differences. Only through robust debates and subjecting our views to the rigorous scrutiny of the marketplace of ideas could we ensure that we would not be pursuing a false path.

So if unity is equated with unanimity, then the less “united” Malays are the better. What we desperately need is a diversity of fresh views and perspectives to replace our current fossilized mindsets. Interestingly, once Malays can tolerate if not embrace the differences amongst us, then we are more likely to tolerate and embrace differences with our fellow Malaysians. That can only be good for plural Malaysia.

Tuanku Muhammad Faris, A Sultan With People's Well-Being At Heart

KOTA BAHARU, Sept 13 (Bernama) -- Newly-proclaimed Sultan of Kelantan Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra Ibni Sultan Ismail Petra is described by many as a ruler with the people's well-being at heart.

He has been going around the state, visiting villages and Orang Asli settlements, to be with the people and listen to their problems.

Wearing his trademark robe and "gumbang" Malay attire and "kopiah" (cap), he is unassuming and always at ease as he mingles with the people.

At one time in Pantai Damat, Bachok, Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra visited an ailing single mother, who relied only on assistance from the Welfare Department.

Sitting cross-legged at the home of Azizah Abdullah, 41, and her three children, Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra asked her how she was doing, and was deeply touched by the sufferings of the family.

He offered words of encouragement, telling her children that he hoped they would be successful in their education, and handed over his personal contribution.

Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra, 41, was today proclaimed as the Sultan of Kelantan, succeeding his father Tuanku Ismail Petra Almarhum Sultan Yahya Petra.

The eldest prince of Tuanku Ismail Petra has three siblings, namely Tengku Bendahara Tengku Muhammad Faiz Petra, Tengku Temenggong Tengku Muhammad Fakhry Petra and Tengku Amalin A'Ishah Putri.

He received his early education in Kota Baharu and Kuala Lumpur and later at the Oakham School, in Rutland, England until 1989 before pursuing his education in diplomatic studies at St Cross College, Oxford, United Kingdom and Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies until 1991.

He was born on Oct 6, 1969 and was made the Crown Prince in October 1985 and the Regent of Kelantan last year.

An avid reader and fan of four-wheel-drive vehicle expedition, horse sports, bowling and archery, he also follows closely the development in and outside the country.

He has been going to the ground, meeting the people, often quietly, away from the glare of the media.

Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra also involves in many charity organisations and has been appointed the Commander of the 506 Territorial Army Regiment with a rank of Brigadier General (Honorary).

Death in custody – Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra (Wangsa Maju police station, 12 Sept 2006)

Four years ago yesterday, 45-year old Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra died in police custody at the Wangsa Maju police station.

The mother of five was found dead in her cell three days after her arrest on 10 Sept 2006, and the police classified this as sudden death.

According to the post-mortem report, Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra’s death was due to intra-cerebral hemorrhage with intra-ventricular extension and perforated gastric ulcer. However, when her brother, Monashofian Putra, saw her body in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, he reported that Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra had bruises on her face, body, legs and neck.

Monashofian Putra lodged a police report and urged the police to investigate, among others, the bruises, the reasons why the police had not sent Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra to the hospital immediately when they informed him, via a text message, that she was in a serious condition, and why the doctor only arrived two-and-a-half hour after her death.

Despite the requirement that all custodial deaths be investigated by inquiries conducted pursuant to Chapter XXXII of the Criminal Procedure Code, it does not appear that an inquest has been conducted into Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra’s death.

Every death in custody must be thoroughly and impartially investigated.  Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra’s death must not be relegated to a mere statistic.

Based on the Royal Malaysia Police’s statistics, 85 persons died in police custody between 2003 and 2007 alone.

We express our heartfelt condolences to Samiyati Indrayani Zulkarnain Putra’s family and friends on the anniversary of her death.

MPPP aims to improve Western Rd cemetery

By Anil Netto,

They may worship in different churches belonging to different denominations, but in death they share the same cemetery in Western Road in Penang. Now, an ad inserted in the local press requiring those with burial rights and relatives of the deceased to register with the MPPP has raised consternation among segments of the local Christian community.

It was the bit about the one-month deadline to register “failing which MPPP would take necessary actions to repossess the burial plots for use that created something of a stir. See theSun report here and a letter from a concerned reader here who asked, “I am of the opinion that MPPP only has the right to ask descendants, family members and their appointed personal representatives to re-affirm ownership of burial plots. But that is the most that they can legally do. MPPP does not have any legal right to seize old burial plots even if nobody comes forward to re-register claim.”
I got in touch with a couple of MPPP councillors to find out what was going on. Here’s what I learned:
The Western Road cemetery land belongs to the MPPP. The Catholic and Protestant Churches each contribute just RM2,000 per year to the Council for the management of the cemetery. The Council has been holding meetings with representatives from both these groups – each represented by three members.
The cemetery has been poorly managed, even neglected. Quite a few ‘funny’ things are going on. It’s almost like a free for all, with no proper system of managing who is buried there. Mosquitoes are breeding too.
Now, the Council wants to improve the management of the place, and one of the priorities is to look into the records of the burials. Apparently, there were bulk purchases of burial plots for which no names were recorded for the individual plots in the register. It is these that the Council is focusing on.
The ad, probably drafted by a bureaucrat, refers to just a preliminary registration exercise. This exercise will be ongoing, and the MPPP is even thinking of extending the registration to occasions like All Souls Day, when relatives come to pay their respects to deceased family members. The MPPP also wants the churches to play a more pro-active role in the management and improvement of the place. The churches have agreed to create awareness among their Christian communities on what can be done to improve the management of the cemetery.
Among the improvements the Council is considering: an updated register, better control over burial plots,  a new columbarium, better security, the installation of lighting at night, sealing up of flower jars, etc that could be potential mosquito breeding sites.

2 killed in Afghan protest over Quran-burning plan

Afghan protesters in Jalalabad shout slogans in a Friday demonstration against a pastor's plan to burn the Quran.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- At least two people were killed and four were injured in Afghanistan Sunday in protests against the pastor who had planned to burn the Quran in Florida, a local official said.

On Saturday the pastor of the Florida church said the planned burning of the Quran had been canceled.

"We will definitely not burn the Quran," the Rev. Terry Jones told NBC's "Today." "Not today, not ever."

Demonstrations against the plan began in Afghanistan before Jones made his announcement.

About 600 people were at the protest which turned deadly Sunday, a spokesman for the governor of Logar province said.

Afghan security forces opened fire to prevent demonstrators from entering the offices of the governor of Baraki Barak district, Din Mohammad Darwish said.

He originally said one person was killed and five were wounded, but one of the injured later died, he said.

The protest lasted about three hours, he said.

And Iranian students plan to protest against the canceled Quran-burning on Monday, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The group organizing the protest is the Union of Islamic Associations of Independent Students, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Demonstrators will gather outside the Swiss Embassy in Iran's capital, Tehran, on Monday afternoon. Switzerland represents American interests in the Islamic republic because Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic relations.

The planned Quran burning -- initially scheduled for the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States -- had sparked international condemnation.

The burning had been planned at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, for Saturday.

Jones arrived in New York late Friday night and was working to set up a meeting with the imam in charge of the New York Islamic center planned near ground zero.

The planned meeting, Jones had said, helped persuade him to halt the planned burning.

Jones' plan triggered expressions of concern from U.S. military leaders, who said the event would imperil the lives of troops abroad.

President Barack Obama said Friday that the idea that "we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for."

He said he hoped Jones "prays on it" and refrains from doing it.

The government has to send a "very clear message" that burning the Quran would endanger U.S. troops and serve as a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda, Obama added.