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Friday, October 1, 2010

Ayodhya verdict surprises govt, surpasses saffron hopes

BJP meeting after Ayodhya verdict
BJP president Nitin Gadkari with senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and L K Advani during a meeting of the party's core committee. (PTI photo)
NEW DELHI: The verdict of the Allahabad High court legalising the makeshift temple at the Babri site came as a surprise to the government while it surpassed the Sangh Parivar's own expectations.

While bracing for the judgement, the government had estimated that it was not going to throw up a clear loser or an unambiguous winner, discounting the possibility that the judges would hand the disputed site to Hindus, giving the BJP and others in the Sangh Parivar a bagful of brownie points and an opportunity to reduce the demolition stigma.

Post-verdict, however, it is recognised that the verdict, despite the court asking for a three-way split of the disputed land among Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board, the verdict marks a clear win for the mandir partisans.

The Congress also has to cope with the risk of any adverse political fallout. Its chief worry is about how the order is going to play out among the Muslim community. It is hoping that the saffron excitement over the verdict will fade soon.

It is particularly wary of the possibility of "secular" rivals like Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh Yadav and, to a lesser extent, Ramvilas Paswan, who seized on the demolition of Babri Masjid on Congress's watch to poach the party's sprawling Muslim base in the north, exploiting the ruling to their advantage.

By virtue of the fact that the Congress is in government at the time of the verdict --- which the Sangh Parivar may cite as post facto justification for the Babri demolition on December 6, 1992 --- makes the party vulnerable to swipes from the Yadav chieftains and Paswan that it's soft on Hindutva. The party suspects that Lalu-Paswan duo will pounce upon the verdict to revive memories of Congress's "betrayal" in 1992 and contrast it with their "muscular secularism".

The puzzlement over the verdict and worry about its fallout was evident, according to sources, in the deliberations Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held to review the situation. In a statement, PM tried to play down the pro-temple dimension of the judgement, saying that it "needed to be examined carefully" and that it was not going to change the situation at the disputed site."

"The High Court itself has directed that the status quo as prevailing till date shall be maintained for a period of three months. Besides, the High Court has granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court," Singh said. "By three separate orders, the Honourable Judges have given their findings on each of these issues and, in the operative part moulded the reliefs to the parties in a particular manner. The correct conclusion, at this stage, is that the status quo will be maintained until the cases are taken up by the Supreme Court."

The statement was far more nuanced than Congress's initial response articulated by spokesman Janardan Dwivedi. Unlike the PM, the party general secretary had welcomed the verdict, even suggesting that it should be accepted.

BJP was also surprised, though pleasantly so. The party had not foreseen a verdict in favour of the temple. RSS chief Mohan Bagwat sounded confident when he discussed the issue with BJP and Parivar affiliates in the Capital on September 15-16, but those tracking the case did not share his optimism.

The meeting of the core group interpreted the court order as a "an outright ideological victory and a defeat for pseudo secularists, an emphatic win for the temple and 75-80% win in the fight for the site."

The development is a major boost for the party, which will pounce upon the verdict to try to seek validation for its Ayodhya campaign which was cited by rivals to paint the saffronites as out-dated. The image correction has already begun, with party spokespersons seeking to turn the tables on those expressing reservations about the verdict.

The Parivar presented a picture of sweet reasonableness, invoking reconciliation, national unity and adherence to rule of law --- a completely new projection on the part of those who have so far passionately argued that the site of the Ram temple, being a matter of faith, was beyond judicial scrutiny.

The verdict and the attendant publicity has revived the temple issue, but with a difference. This time it is the Mandir advocates who can claim to be on the right side of the law.

But there is the recognition that while the order can help them score points in the gabfests in TV studios, it may not necessarily tilt the political balance in its favour. The decision to moderate the rhetoric and the appeals for national reconciliation also reflected the acknowledgement that triumphalism may not pay. It is felt that few will want a throwback to the tumultuous '90s and that the party needs to broaden its appeal. The verdict, in fact, may help the Parivar to rein in the hotheads. 

Anwar on global tour to highlight sodomy case


Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is on a global tour to highlight his case ahead of a trial on sodomy charges, which he says is baseless and politically motivated.

Speaking in Berlin Thursday after meeting with parliamentarians and political activists, Anwar said that he was using the opportunity of his bail period before the trial to underline what he called Malaysia's endemic corruption and politically biased judiciary.

azlan"The government says that this case is nothing to do with them, but the facts are to the contrary," he said.

Anwar is currently fighting fresh allegations of sodomy which threaten to derail his political career and put him back in jail, where he already served six years on a previous homosexuality conviction.

The former deputy prime minister's party PKR quadrupled its seats in the general election in March 2008, raising the possibility of the fall of Barisan Nasional, which has ruled Malaysia since independence.

Anwar says that the latest allegations - made by a former male aide - are an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to defuse the political threat he poses.

Homosexuality - treated legally as sodomy - is an offence in Malaysia. If convicted, the politician faces up to 20 years in jail, and would be barred from politics.

Anwar and members of his coalition have met lawmakers and officials in Brussels, and are set to travel to London, Barcelona, New York and Jakarta before the trial commences on October 14.

'Raise our voices before it is too late'

Anwar has received support from leading members of the German parliament while in Berlin, although he did not have any official meetings with the government.

The German Foreign Office did not respond to a request for information on Anwar's visit.

NONEThe Chairman of the Germany-Asean parliamentary group, Green Party politician Thomas Gambke (right), called on Malaysia to uphold the provisions of Asean's charter on the protection of human rights.

"We have to raise our voices to say something. When they throw him into prison, it is too late," he told the German press agency dpa.

"If Anwar continues to contribute (to political life), it would strengthen, not weaken Malaysia," he said.

Speaking as a guest of the liberal Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Anwar appealed for solidarity, but said he was not expecting other countries to intervene in Malaysian politics.

"But express your position on democratic values and justice," he said.

"Why allow a country to stumble and fall before you express your opinion?" he said.

This week, British tycoon Richard Branson said, while visiting Kuala Lumpur, that the Anwar case was damaging Malaysia's image abroad.

Anwar said that a guilty conviction would strengthen his multi-ethnic coalition. "If you put me inside, it will be a win for us," he said.

- dpa

ETP projects all in Idris’ ‘dream’, say analysts and politicians

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1— Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s insistence that the Economic Transformation Programme’s (ETP) mega projects will spur growth towards Vision 2020 has not completely convinced analysts and politicians.

They are doubtful as to whether the government’s ETP, which promises a heavy commitment from the private sector, would be able to transform Malaysia towards a high-income economy by the year 2020.

Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee described Idris as a “cheerleader” appointed to rouse support for the ETP without possessing expertise in economics.

“I think he’s being the cheerleader without having a full understanding of the economic issues and problems in the country,” said Lim.

“He is presenting a kind of a dream scenario. What will happen in real life is likely to be very different,” he added, pointing out that many of the projects would likely not see the light of day in the event of a double-dip recession.

Lim noted that the various projects in the ETP did not go through a rigorous process of selection as only a small number of government-linked company and business leaders discussed those projects.

“The projects have to be scrutinised by, first of all, people who are in the market and who are in the know, who scrutinise objectively and independently. That has not happened,” he said.

Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian expressed concerns that Idris’ bold development plans under the ETP which includes the new Kuala Lumpur mass rapid transit (MRT) system would not completely take-off.

“These plans place a heavy reliance on private investment. But Idris has not answered the question of how the government plans to attract private investment in the first place.

“How is the government going to attract private investors to come in and pump in the cash? The plans are good, yes, but the question remains as to how it will translate into real progress or growth,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider.

The analyst cautioned that if no transparent plan was mapped out, the Najib administration’s plans for economic growth would fall short of achieving its goals of economic reform.

“The ETP’s plans might be like the economic approach in the past where the purpose was to strengthen business among the Bumiputeras, but this plan did not translate into real economic growth,” he said.

The various projects in the ETP include the MRT system, the “River of Life” Klang River beautification project in the Greater KL region as well as future 1 Malaysia malls in China and Vietnam.

Other plans include building a huge oil storage facility next to Singapore to form a regional oil products trading hub. A casino project in Sabah is also being considered.

The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) said it had identified investments worth RM1.38 trillion over 10 years, of which 60 per cent would come from the private sector, 32 per cent from government-linked companies and eight per cent from the government.

The investment aims to double per capita income and push Malaysia into the ranks of “developed” nations by 2020, rebalancing Asia’s third-most export-driven economy towards domestic demand and the service sector.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin echoed Ibrahim’s views, saying that the “proof of the pudding” in regards to the ETP lies in the government’s ability to implement all these plans before 2020.

“The projects promised under the ETP are great on paper, but the onus is on the government to be able to get it going, (to) get it started now. We’ve only got nine years left. Projects like the KL MRT system needs to get started now, the projects need to be implemented on the ground,” said Khairy.

The Rembau MP told The Malaysian Insider that the ETP needed to include how it was planning to raise capital for the projects.

“There are questions in mind... how are we going to spur private investment? How are we going to convince the various financial institutions to raise the capital needed to get these projects started,” said Khairy.

Salahuddin says Idris is misleading the public with mega projects. — File pic
However, PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub dismissed Idris as another Barisan Nasional (BN) politician misleading the public with mega projects.

“He is just the same like other BN politicians,” claimed Salahuddin.

“Idris Jala, we are not fooled. You are trying to mislead us by talking about the Economic Transformation Programme, but all the projects that you mentioned are stimulus economy projects, not economic transformation projects,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The Kubang Kerian MP pointed out that economic transformation required plans on political and institutional reform.

“When you talk about transformation, you need to talk about a human capital transformation… the quality universities we have, standards and skills of labour,” said Salahuddin.

Surprisingly, DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua praised Idris over his role in the ETP, saying the Cabinet minister had done his job.

“He is not your typical BN man where you are just looking at largesse,” Pua told The Malaysian Insider.

“Idris Jala has done his part, which was to find areas for Malaysia to grow. Now, it’s for the prime minister to commit to the necessary reforms to take the country forward and to achieve the goals stated in the ETP,” Pua said.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP dismissed the need for the government to fill in the details of the ETP, but stressed instead that its main role was to explain why the private sector should invest in the planned projects.

“The ETP is not going to be detailed because we are not going to be a government-driven economy. The underlying question that needs to be addressed is really why should people invest,” said Pua.

He pointed out that Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to convince the private sector by addressing concerns on a lack of institutional reforms, perceived unfair treatment based on affirmative action policies, and a civil bloated service.

Pua, however, expressed doubt about Najib’s support of Idris’ various economic proposals such as the earlier Government Transformation Programme.

“From what I can tell he is not getting full support from the prime minister. The problem isn’t so much what the Idris team is doing, but the Cabinet as a whole led by the prime minister that is unwilling to take the proposals full-blown,” he said.

Currently in Malaysia, only 28 per cent of the total workforce is employed in the high-skill job bracket, reflecting the low level of educational attainment among a large segment of the workforce.

Malaysia lags region in millionaire stakes

 

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Malaysia does not appear on Merrill Lynch’s latest ranking of top millionaire-creating countries in the Asia-Pacific region but is lumped instead in the “others” category with other minor markets such as Pakistan and Myanmar.

Malaysia’s grouping in the “others” category of the Merrill Lynch Capgemini 2010 Asia Pacific Wealth Report on high net worth individuals (HNWI) released this week contrasts sharply with its strong position in terms of the number of billionaires that it boasts, suggesting that its system is skewed towards the super-rich rather than mass wealth.

Forbes magazine rankings show that Malaysia has nine billionaires, the eighth highest in Asia — including the world’s 33rd and 89th richest — Tan Sri Robert Kuok and T. Ananda Krishnan. In comparison Japan, which has by far the most number of millionaires in Asia, has only 22 billionaires.

The other countries that make up the “others” category of the Asia Pacific Wealth report include New Zealand, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The “others” group (estimated population 480 million) collectively saw their number of US dollar millionaires grow 11.1 per cent to 154,000 in 2009 compared with a whopping 104.4 per cent in Hong Kong to 76,000, 32.7 per cent in Singapore to 82,000, 42.3 per cent in Taiwan to 83,000, 50.9 per cent in India to 127,000, 34.4 per cent in Australia to 174,000, 31 per cent in China to 477,000 and 20.8 per cent in Japan to 1.7 million.

As a group, the “others” saw their HNWI wealth grow 11.6 per cent to US$749 billion (RM2,322 billion) compared with 22. 4 per cent in Japan to US$3.9 trillion, 40.4 per cent in China to US$2.3 trillion, 36.7 per cent in Australia to US$519 billion, 53.8 per cent in India to US$477 billion, 108.9 per cent in Hong Kong to US$379 billion and 35.6 per cent in Singapore to US$369 billion.

An analysis by the Boston Consulting Group released in June also shows that Singapore has the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world at 11.4 per cent, followed by second place Hong Kong and third place Switzerland.

Malaysia’s city state southern neighbour is also now vying with Switzerland to become the wealth management capital of the world.

The Merril Lynch report said that Asia Pacific HNWIs had 27 per cent of their assets in equities and 26 per cent in real estate at the end of 2009 compared with 23 per cent and 22 per cent respectively in 2008.

“By 2011, Asia-Pacific HNWIs’ allocations to equities and fixed-income instruments are expected to increase and relative holdings of cash-based and real-estate holdings are expected to decline as HNWIs seek to rebalance their portfolios,” said the report. “Home-region allocations are expected to decline as Asia-Pacific HNWIs pursue returns and opportunities elsewhere, especially in the emerging markets of Latin America and Africa.”

The report defines HNWIs as those with investable assets of at least US$1 million.

Ex-airman moves to confront ‘torturers’ to strengthen freedom bid

 


SHAH ALAM, Oct 1 — Ex-airman Sergeant N. Tharmendran today applied to put his two “torturers” in the witness stand to support his bid to throw out his charges of stealing two F5-E jet engines.

Tharmendran’s lawyer Latheefa Koya told the High Court today that the cross-examination of his alleged torturers was crucial to determine the validity of his motion to drop the charges against him.

“If it is verified through cross-examination, then the testimony obtained there is very important for the substantial application, which is whether to get the charges dropped or suspended,” Latheefa said.

“The charges made by the applicant are very serious and directly affect the criminal procedure system in the country,” she added.

Tharmendran (picture) previously claimed to have been tortured by two “majors” who sought to force a confession that he had stolen the jet engines.

In a motion filed on July 16, Tharmendran sought for the charges against him to be thrown out on grounds that the authorities involved had specific intention to implicate him.

Latheefa pointed out that the affidavits filed by the two RMAF majors who denied torturing Tharmendran necessitated a cross-examination to reveal the truth.

“It is obvious that there are serious charges about torture on the applicant and bare denial from the persons who are alleged to do the torture,” said Latheefa.

“The truth can only be known if both deponents can be brought to court and cross-examined,” said the lawyer, referring to Major Norazan Md Amin and Major Ismail Omar who had filed the affidavits.

Latheefa also brought up another affidavit, filed by a witness on August 16, claiming that she saw Ismail abuse another detainee in front of her and Tharmendran.

“An affidavit by Intan Yusof showed Major Ismail’s actions... he pulled another detainee’s hair, twisted his head and then slapped him,” she said.

“It is important that the court verifies the charges,” she added.

Tharmendran’s other lawyer N. Surendran confirmed to reporters later that Intan — a 46-year-old businessman — was the new witness that he had mentioned in the High Court here on August 5.

“She is the one who saw the assault,” said the lawyer, referring to the abuse of the detainee mentioned by Latheefa.

Latheefa said that Intan claimed to have witnessed the alleged assault during her visit with the ex-airman in July last year, while he was in custody at the Sungai Besi air base.

“A friend of Tharmendran (Intan) and Tharmendran’s cousin visited him at the Sungai Besi air base in July 2009 when he was kept there,” she told reporters.

Tharmendran had alleged that about 30 to 40 others had been similarly tortured as he could hear their screams during his confinement at the air force base.

The 42-year-old ex-RMAF sergeant had said that he was made to wear a crash helmet and was hit with a cricket bat and a golf club three to four times a day.

He was also allegedly dragged, stripped down to his underwear, thrown into a freezing cold room and made to admit, repeatedly, that he was guilty.

Deputy public prosecutor Ishak Mohd Yusoff, however, urged the court to dismiss Tharmendran’s bid to cross-examine the two majors as his lawyers did not specify the areas of their intended cross-examination.

“The applicant was not specific in stating in his affidavit the areas that they want to cross-examine,” said Ishak.

“This can be categorised as a fishing expedition,” he added.

Ishak also pointed out that Tharmendran’s affidavit did not describe the confession that the two majors allegedly tried to force from him.

“It was not stated in his affidavit what was the confession that was extracted from him,” said Ishak.

“Without a confession, it will render his application to cross-examine... irrelevant because it is extraneous,” he added.

High Court Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad ruled that she needed to consider whether the court was empowered to grant Tharmendran’s application to cross-examine the two air force majors.

“I have to go back to the basic principle on whether I have the power. I need more time to do research,” she said.

Tharmendran and company director K. Rajandran Prasad were jointly charged in the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court on January 6 in connection with the theft of the missing F5-E jet engines.

Tharmendran is accused of stealing the engines in December 2007 at the Subang RMAF air base.

He was also charged with conspiring in the theft with senior airman Mohamad Shukri Mohamad Yusop at the material processing shed at the Sungai Besi RMAF base.

He was arrested on September 1 last year, and if convicted faces up to 10 years’ jail and a fine.

Rajandran is accused of disposing of the engines on April 30, 2008.

The theft was a major embarrassment to the government, following reports later that the country’s first submarine — KD Tunku Abdul Rahman — could not dive in tropical waters.

The prime minister had vowed that there would be no cover-up in the high-profile case which occurred during his tenure as defence minister while the current minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had claimed that it had been an inside job.

The High Court judge fixed October 29 to hear her decision on the matter.

Dr M’s wealth prescription will bankrupt Malaysia, say analysts, politicians


Pua says the country cannot keep spending irresponsibly. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s prescription of growth and wealth to avoid race relations problems plaguing Malaysia will bankrupt the nation if followed by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, analysts and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders said.

They pointed out that the former premier’s own advice had failed during his administration which showed a trend of declining race relations amid ballooning government expenditure.

“Najib will be crazy to follow Dr Mahathir’s prescription for it’ll only bankrupt the country and worsen race relations, especially when the root causes of deteriorating race relations are not first addressed,” DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua told The Malaysian Insider.

“Race relations were getting worse by the day between 2005 and 2009 despite record government expenditure and budget, and a record-breaking number of projects,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said on Wednesday he had formulated the Bangsa Malaysia concept under his Vision 2020 plan based on the premise that thriving economic growth would ease race relations.

Pua, however, pointed out that after Dr Mahathir’s administration, the government budget had expanded from RM128 billion in 2004 to a hefty RM200 billion last year.

“Yet race relations had been increasingly worse in those past five years compared to the years before,” said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP, citing incidents of Umno leaders waving the keris, a traditional Malay dagger, during annual general meetings.

In 2005, then-Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein sparked an uproar when he wielded the keris at the party annual general meeting, which was criticised as a symbol of Malay supremacy.

Recently, there has been a spike in racial tension, such as the incident of two school principals accused of uttering racial slurs, the furore surrounding a Chinese MP’s visit to a surau, and a National Civics Bureau (BTN) senior official who allegedly referred to the Chinese and Indian communities as “si mata sepet” and “si botol” at a closed-door Puteri Umno function on Monday.

PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar echoed Pua’s views and noted that Najib’s administration now suffered a tight budget due to Dr Mahathir’s wastefulness.

“We are having financial management problems because of spending during Dr Mahathir’s time and Pak Lah’s time,” said Mahfuz, referring to former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia is facing uncertain economic prospects with average GDP growth in the next five years projected to be just shy of the six per cent target Najib had set.

“Najib does not need to take Dr Mahathir’s advice because if he does, the country will lose a lot of money like what happened in Dr Mahathir’s time,” said Mahfuz.

The Pokok Sena MP also pointed out that the infamous Kampung Medan racial clash had occurred during the administration of the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

“There were racial problems even during his time, like Kampung Medan,” said Mahfuz.

In 2001, a violent clash between the Malay and Indian communities in the Petaling Jaya suburb left six dead.

Pua dismissed the former Umno president’s spending strategy to ease racial tension as “unsustainable” and irresponsible.

“Looking forward, it’s unsustainable. The country does not have the money to keep spending the way Dr Mahathir wants us to spend,” he said, pointing out that the national debt had increased from 40 per cent of the GDP to 52 per cent today at RM363 billion.

“We cannot keep spending irresponsibly,” stressed Pua.

The lawmaker pointed out that the abuse of affirmative action policies was the underlying factor of race relations problems, but not a stagnant economy as claimed by Dr Mahathir.

“It is NEP (New Economic Policy) abuses — the ‘bastardisation’ as described by Nazir Razak — where they benefited a minority few,” said Pua, referring to CIMB group CEO Datuk Seri Nazir Razak who is Najib’s younger brother.

Recently, Nazir had lambasted the policy for being “bastardised” over the decades since its inception in 1971 for deviating from its goal of eradicating poverty.

Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee agreed with Pua, saying that unfair wealth distribution caused by NEP-type policies was the reason behind simmering racial tension.

“Unequal income distribution has contributed to an increase in racial tension. It was during his period that growth in racial polarisation started to take place because of his policy,” said Lim, citing Dr Mahathir’s continuation of the NEP despite its targeted end date in 1990.

The Centre for Policy Initiatives director also slammed the former premier for squandering billions to feed his appetite for grand projects.

“The big projects undertaken during Mahathir’s time, when a lot of money was thrown around, resulted in bailouts between 1970 and 2007 costing the country more than RM100 billion,” said Lim.

“It is a recipe for disaster when projects are simply generated. It is economically unjustifiable, unsustainable and badly managed,” he added.

Political analyst Professor Madya Dr Samsul Adabi also cautioned against frittering away the country’s finances.

“We cannot simply spend,” said Samsul.

Like Dr Mahathir, he noted that wealth generation would help reduce racial tension in the country, but stressed that other factors also played a part.

“I agree because it can be one of the factors in reducing race relations problems, but there are other factors too,” said the analyst.

Part-timers' rights: Good, bad and ugly

By Patrick Lee - Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: The government's move to clarify the position of part-time workers may open up a number of issues, said economic observers.

DAP's MP for Klang and economist Charles Santiago said there was a danger that full-time staff would not be allowed to work overtime.

He claimed that employers might hand that overtime period to part-timers instead.

Asked if this practice was ongoing in Malaysia, he said although it was not prevalent, it was certainly taking place.

Santiago cited a factory in Ipoh that brought in a new shift of workers after the full-timers were done with their eight-hour day shifts.

He also said that this problem was more common in small-medium enterprises (SME) than in larger corporations. "SMEs can get away with murder," he added.

Santiago also said that by giving part-timers a chance, employers might take advantage by “short-changing” their existing workers.

He said that part-time workers were less likely to join unions in areas such as service sectors and fast-food chains. This in turn had the potential to create a less loyal workforce.

However, RAM (Ratings Agency Malaysia) Holdings Berhad chief economist, Yeah Kim Leng called the ruling an “excellent move”.

Yeah said the ruling presented a flexible arrangement for employers, adding that it would lead to a better structure with part-timers.

"(In the past) part-timers (suffered) from the lack of incentives, leave and medical coverage," he said, adding that it would encourage the unemployed to take up work.

Nevertheless, Yeah said that the government needed to provide more skills training and education to employees in the country.

By doing so, he said that it would increase the country's skills pool as well as employees' productivity.

The RAM economist also said that employees deserved greater protection as well as better benefits, including paid leave.

According to the Human Resources Ministry, part-timers would not be entitled to paid maternity leave as well as termination benefits.

They make take up two jobs


Malaysian Employer's Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Barban said that the ruling would help employers to hire local workers instead of foreigners.

"Now you (can) have two local workers (for the same period) instead of one foreign worker," he said.

However, Shamsuddin was worried that the new regulation would encourage full-time workers to take up second jobs.

"This is a major issue, so the ministry has to clarify this," Shamsuddin said. "I don't think any employer would like his employee to take up a second job after normal working hours."

Citing a conflict of interest, Shamsuddin was worried that workers might end up being physically tired as a reuslt and this would lead to more workplace accidents.

Asked what the government should concentrate on, Santiago said: "What we need in this country is a minimum wage that's decent enough.That will reduce the chances of foreign workers coming in."

He also said that Malaysians were less likely to go for more dangerous and low-paying jobs, leaving them for foreign workers.

Shamsuddin, however, disagreed. "At the end of the day, what is the income level to the employee concerned?” he said. “The employer cannot (just) pluck extra money out of the air.”

The new regulation classified part-time workers as those who worked from 14.4 to 33.6 hours a week.

As a result, part-timers would enjoy some protection and security, including Employee Provision Fund (EPF) and SOCSO (Social Security Organisation) contributions from their employers.

The Work Regulation (Part-time Workers) 2010, which comes under the Employment Act of 1955, comes into effect today.

Bkt Gelugor PKR challenger fears the worst

By Athi Shankar - Free Malaysia Today

GEORGE TOWN: Following the outcry of electoral malpractises in last week’s PKR Bayan Baru polls, neighbouring Bukit Gelugor members now fear the worst awaits them in their divisional polls on Oct 3.

The supporters of challenger Lim Boo Chang are worried that they would be troubled by a similar adversity that marred the hotly contested Bayan Baru divisional election.

Lawyer Lim takes on incumbent S Raveentharan, also a lawyer and Batu Uban assemblyman, in a mouth-watering clash to grab the Bukit Gelugor division chairman post.

All other major positions are also up for grabs in the Raveentharan-Lim fight to seize divisional control.

Until last week, Lim’s supporters were confident that their team tagged “Team Progressive”, could triumph in a clean, fair and free electoral process.

However, the ghost of Bayan Baru has begun to haunt them over the last few days.

They are now preparing themselves to negotiate the prospect of their divisional polls being marred by malpractices.

“We are determined not to allow a ‘Bayan Baru’ in our divisional polls,” said a strategist from Lim’s camp.

Lim’s camp fear is not unfounded.

Bayan Baru victors, “Team Reformis”, headed by Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin, are closely linked with Raveentharan’s camp.

Top-level influence

“Team Rakyat”, headed by defeated candidate M Ngnanasegaran, has accused Sim’s camp of committed various electoral malpractices.

Among the allegations were vote-rigging, cheating and biasness of the election coordinating team.

Being the party deputy secretary-general, Raveentharan understandably has close links with top leaders.

He has demonstrated his top-level influence when he got through his men to contest the polls even though they all allegedly filed their candidature papers after the nomination process was closed at 4pm on Sept 4.

During a Hari Raya open house organised by Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman in Penanti on Sept 19, PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim has apparently joked to Lim that “it seems you are going to win unopposed”.
Lim’s premature joy was short-lived, though.

A few days later, the top leadership confirmed that Raveentharan and his team of late comers have been cleared to contest.

In other contests, Raveentharan's ally Johan Johari, the division current secretary, will take on Roslan Ramansah for the deputy chairman post, while for the vice-chairman, Cheah Peng Guan will face current divisional permanent chairman K Asokan from Lim’s camp.

For the Youth chief post, Raveentharan team pitted Muhammed Annaruddin Akbar Ali against Shahul Hamid Abdul Kader and fielded Jurinah Hassan against Chew Hong Wah for the women's wing chief position.

Lim not impressed
Sensing Raveentharan’s strong top-level influence, Lim has written a letter to party election steering committee chairman Dr Molly Cheah today seeking to ensure that “the Bukit Gelugor polls would be clear, fair and transparent” unlike Bayan Baru.

Among Lim’s requests were that the election coordinating team should consist of sufficient members to run the polls.

If the election duty officers included volunteers recommended by Raveentharan, Lim, the current divisional deputy chairman, also wants his recommended volunteers to be in.

Lim wants his team of observers to be allowed in the hall all the time, from the time the first vote was cast until the last vote was counted.

He also opposes any attempt by anyone to lock the voting hall.

Lim wants 1,790 ballot papers to be brought for voting, the exact number of divisional members, to prevent use of photocopied ballot papers.

He also wants all relevant ballot sheets to be stapled together as a set to be given out to each voting member.

However, it is learnt that Lim was neither impressed or self-assured after he had called Cheah pertaining to the matter yesterday.

All the pre-election happenings have geared up Lim’s supporters to be prepared for an intense polling day. Bukit Gelugor divisional election is set for a fiery finale.

What the NEM (ETP) needs

By Nurul Izzah Anwar

COMMENT I wish to outline my big picture impression of how to make the NEM (ETP) a success for all Malaysians as part of my continuing constructive engagement initiative.
It was said by some observers that the opposition only critiques without offering any alternative solutions to the ETP in particular.

However, all if not most of the ideas presented here have already been suggested, and I only wish to repeat them for the purpose of outlining the necessary steps to make NEM a reality.

I hope that this ‘big picture’ commentary with suggested actions will be considered seriously and explained by the government in the upcoming 2011 Budget announcement in Parliament.

The critique
Returning to my articles on the ETP, the response received from the public in support or otherwise of the position I presented is most welcomed in the spirit of free speech in a democracy. This debate is a healthy development, albeit mostly through the alternative media.

The main points to my ETP articles and the various responses can be summed up as follows:

The ETP is a huge economic development or transformation plan that has its merits.

However, the numbers and various acronyms must not be a deterrent from discussing economics especially on its impact on all stakeholders.
The possible inconsistencies and accuracy of GDP growth projections was revealed when the PM last year, at an internationally attended multimedia super corridor event, claimed he was misquoted on his announcement of the 9% annual growth target for the next 10 years of being actually 6%.  Even a prominent local research house alluded to an 8% growth rate.

Some have said that if real GDP growth is 6% annually, it will only take us to the target of US$17,000 nominal GNI per head if Malaysia's population grows at a 1 per cent compound rate a year for the next ten years. However, from 2000-2010, population grew by an estimated 1.86% (Dept of Statistics). If population grows at this faster rate instead of 1% over the next decade, then real GDP growth would also have be faster by this difference.

Also, the GDP growth projections didn’t include if any, the plans related to requiring a quality workforce by increasing government spending and investments in education and research and development capacity building.

It appears that most of the EPPs and BOs were proposed by specific companies such as the RM43 billion MRT project proposed by Gamuda-MMC. The question is, will the proposed project be awarded to the proposer or open for competitive international bidding? If this is not clarified, than the EPPs and BOs would only be a self-serving exercise for certain businesses.

To illustrate this point, would Pemandu be interested in my RM500 billion atmospheric dome proposal covering Kuala Lumpur against climate change or as a friend suggested a scaled down RM50 billion eco-project utilizing gigantic fans to blow existing pollution to our neighbouring countries?

As the proposer, all I need is an official award letter and a parliament act to set a price on the atmosphere along with a government guarantee letter to help me raise the needed DDI and FDI funds. My RM500 billion dome would increase GNI substantially and become a center of excellence as we would be the first in the world to do it. Isn’t this truly innovative?  So let all Malaysians submit their innovative proposals to Pemandu for consideration, which can be named RPP (Rakyat Proposed Projects).

Furthermore, if most companies perceive that they do not have a fair chance to compete relative to favoured companies and with a lack of transparency, then this will have an adverse impact on investor confidence. For example, can we have more details on the 1Malaysia Development Fund to know if this exercise to acquire public assets is in the public interest?

The proven track record of not achieving the previous Malaysian Plans is also troubling. For example, 8th Malaysian Plan target of 7.5% growth only achieved an average 4.5% growth while the 9th Malaysian Plan target of 6% growth as of date is at an average 4.2%. This brings our past 10 year historical average growth to less than 5%.

The need to expand participation for national consultation should not be limited to various ‘laboratories’ involving big business, professionals and civil service inputs. The ordinary rakyat especially the rural and urban poor, youth, workers and civil society were not sufficiently engaged on the ground. Some may be intimidated let alone can afford to attend these public participation events or ‘Open Days’ in conference halls.

The widening income inequality and limited higher education opportunities, which is a contributing factor to widening the gap must be addressed adequately.  Economic policies may have reduced the absolute poverty rate but they have also worsened the distribution of income. Thus, the bottom 40% of all households accounts for 15% or less of household income while the top 20% of households account for 50% or more. Sabah, Sarawak and East Coast states bear a disproportionate number of hardcore poor, poor and low-income households.

The most fundamental determinant of any competitive economic plan, which is innovation, requires freedom. How are we free to be creative when our national cartoonist is arrested for humouring us?

Rushing to conclude a matter of national importance just to meet the 2020 year milestone and changing big plans introduced previously such as economic corridors, that are later repackaged by new Prime Ministers only adds to the inconsistent policy making culture (some say flip-flopping) that undermines confidence in the plan’s success.

The plan appears to works backwards from developed country status to high-income status in 2020. This is the source of the problem, silly as it sounds. The impact of this is not only to make the targets "costly, confusing and convoluted" but also conjectural.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently alluded to the possible failure to achieve Vision 2020’s objectives, which is the premise for the NEM timeline.

Overall, there is much room for improvement in making the ETP viable, realistic and sustainable. And to do that, I now shall outline some suggestions in the form of a formula.

Formula for NEM (ETP) success
I am providing a ‘4E’ formula to keep in line with the many acronyms introduced by the government recently. To be fair I find acronyms useful as mental markers to organize the numerous concepts needed to frame a big idea such as the NEM.

The ‘4E’ formula to make NEM a success is; Education + Empowerment + Efficiencies = Economic Growth (NEM).

The main thrust of the 4E formula is to 'Build Capacity' for productivity, innovation and sustainability through a one-time massive government investment similar in effort to the US Space Project, in education, research and development, political reforms and effective policies.

And on balance with the need for huge investments, we also need to reduce waste through efficiencies and transparency so that every ringgit invested in 'Capacity Building' provides the highest returns for the benefit of all Malaysians.

First E: Education
The NEM already stated the need for at least 3.3 million quality workforce. This includes for more than half to be first degree and diploma holders.

To produce quality workforce requires quality education.

Before I proceed, I would like to note that the recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Education Minister that vocational education will be revamped is commendable.

The suggested actions to be taken are:

Depoliticize Education
The Deputy Prime Minister’s recent statement of his inability to take action on the case of the two principals for racist remarks due to administrative procedures may have an unintended consequence of reaffirming the separation between politicians and the civil service.

It is hoped that this ‘depolitisation principle’ includes all government ministries and to a certain extent also to the judiciary and other institutions. I hope it is not selectively applied for political expediency only.

Removing the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will add towards improving the innovation culture and quality standards of tertiary education to meet NEM objectives profoundly.

Pre-school, Primary And Secondary School Enhancements: Offer Pre-school education to all Malaysian children. The current education NKRA achievement where 54,569 children have benefited from 1,358 pre-school classes is a step in the right direction.

However, it should be accelerated to cover all children numbering at least 1.5 million for three pre-school age group cohorts.

Enhance teaching capacity: Hire more teachers and assistant teachers by 50%, upgrade teacher qualification and professionalism, increase salaries by 50%.

Enhance school curriculum: Move towards a critical and creative thinking approach including for examination questions.

Increase school hours: Adding 45 minutes daily can increase academic achievement significantly.

Single session schooling: Build more new schools and additional classrooms in existing schools. Also continue to fully equip them with ICT infrastructure.

Tertiary Education Quality, Accessibility and Affordability
In summary the following should be considered for tertiary education excellence: greater autonomy, massive Phd Programs for academic staff, increase research and development capacity, increase salaries, hire foreign academic staff talent, itroduce ranking system, convert PTPTN loans to scholarships and provide more scholarships and subsidies

All these actions would require political will and increased public financing to succeed.

The political will to depoliticise and democratize education along with repealing the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will signal the government’s sincerity and commitment to make the NEM a true success for all rather than just for a few Malaysians.

From a public finance perspective, even if the above measures add another 4.5% to the government’s 4.5% average education spending for a total 9% of GDP annually for the next 10 years, this will indicate to the people and the international community of our determination to meet the NEM objectives.

As a possible source of funds, I had proposed earlier that 30% of Petronas annual profit be a mandated contribution to a National Education Fund. This also would include implementing an NEP Bumiputera Equity Redistribution Plan (Quota – in a –Quota) where 25% of current Bumiputera equity ownership of both publicly listed or privately held companies be sold at par-value (which is the official equity ownership calculation criteria) to the same National Education Fund entity.

Second E: Empowerment
One of the most if not the most important key success factor for NEM’s success is innovation. And innovation needs freedom. Freedom can only come from empowering society.

To empower society, I had suggested that we need to add a fifth pillar to the national transformation agenda which is already based on four pillars of 1Malaysia, GTP (Government Transformation Plan), ETP (Economic Transformation Plan) and 10th Malaysia Plan, to be called the PRP (Political Reformation Plan).

PRP includes repealing all anti-democratic laws, respecting separation of powers, reforming national elections and restoring local government elections, returning the judiciary’s and other state institution’s independence, fighting corruption, ensuring a free media and by abiding to the true meaning of our constitution.

By doing so, I am sure that the international community specifically the foreign investors will find it attractive to return and contribute more than the 25% FDI needed to finance the ETP.

Third E: Efficiencies
There are three efficiencies that must be considered to make NEM successful. They are Government Service Efficiency, Market Efficiency and Social Security Efficiency.

Government Service Efficiency
The current Government Transformation Plan (GTP) already addresses this matter to a certain extent.

However, I hope that the initial trend of depoliticising the civil service inadvertently introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister in regards to the two principal racist remark affair shall be a permanent feature to transform the government as planned.

I would also suggest that more talented Malaysians be recruited into the civil service by making it more attractive with market-rate salary and benefits. I believe quality should be the main consideration as we already have quantity with a huge civil service.

We also need a significant and empowered technocracy (i.e. professionals with specialized skills just as in Singapore, Taiwan and Korea.) There is no point in developing our human capital development to a very high level in these areas if they are not then placed in senior decision-making management and administration positions. It is possible to make bureaucrats out of technocrats but not the other way around. They must be empowered, evaluated and promoted based on achievements and track record.

Another important factor that will improve government efficiency and accountability is to return the Local Government Elections immediately. This third tier of government will provide a faster response by the government in delivering services for the real needs of the ratepayers.

Market Efficiency
Information or rather the quality of information is necessary for market efficiency. This would include timely, accurate and consistent information on policy, events and plans.

One of the ways that information is reliable is to allow for a free media.

Therefore, as a step forward, I hope the government will allow more permits for daily newspapers to be approved including my own permit for Utusan Rakyat.

Structural distortions by favorable policy and selective benefits to certain sectors, economic leakages, corruption, opaque procurement practices and inconsistency policy statements will never make NEM a success for all stakeholders.

Social Security Efficiency
The households who live below the poverty line must be assured of equitable assistance from the government. This includes targeted subsidies for essential goods and services such as health and education.

As a first step it is necessary to review the Poverty Line Income (PLI) which should be RM1,886 rather than the government’s PLI average of RM800 per household . This would ensure existing policies and programmes are realigned accordingly to provide an effective safety net for the people.

Another step is to implement a living wage of at least RM1,500 per month.

And to ensure affordable living expenses, the government must enforce anti-monopoly laws across all sectors combined with fighting corruption and white collar crime that add cost to prices for consumers.

Fourth E: Economic Growth
I fail to see how Education, Empowerment and Efficiencies with the suggested actions are not crucial contributing factors for Economic Growth.

The absence of policies, funding and political will to implement these factors will only add to the current skepticism in the NEM initiative.

I hope that our economist and policy makers will add to this discussion with more details. I also hope that a more constructive debate on these factors will take place with all stakeholders especially in the next Parliament sitting.

Furthermore, I would even dare to suggest that implementing the ‘4E’ formula will definitely benefit the current government’s standing and make the opposition more competitive for votes.

This is a price I believe the people and even the opposition should be willing to pay for a better Malaysia. The cost of doing the right thing is nothing compared to the cost of a failed NEM plan leading to a failed nation.

Nurul Izzah Anwar is PKR's MP for Lembah Pantai.

Inikah cara BN pancing undi bukan-Melayu?

Oleh K Pragalath - Free Malaysia Today

KOMEN Dalam kejadian terbaru yang mengganggu-gugat sensitiviti kaum di Malaysia, timbalan pengarah Biro Tata Negara (BTN) Kuala Lumpur Hamim Husin dilaporkan menggambarkan masyarakat Cina sebagai 'si mata sepet' dan masyarakat India sebagai 'kaki botol' di dalam satu perjumpaan dengan ahli Puteri Umno.

Jika laporan ini benar, BTN telah melakukan sesuatu yang bertentangan dengan ajaran Islam yang diwahyukan untuk manusia sejagat

Hamim dilaporkan berkata sedemikian untuk menegaskan bahawa hak memerintah terletak di tangan masyarakat Melayu selaras hak keistimewaan orang Melayu.

Kenyataan sebegini oleh seorang kakitangan sebuah biro yang berfungsi secara langsung di bawah Jabatan Perdana Menteri adalah memalukan.

Tindakan ini membuktikan bahawa BTN menjadi agen penularan semangat asabiyah di kalangan rakyat Malaysia.

Semangat asabiyah menjadi ikutan masyarakat Arab sebelum Islam diturunkan kepada umat manusia.

Frasa 'si mata sepet' dan 'kaki botol' pula membuktikan kejahilannya terhadap masyarakat lain. Sesungguhnya kedua-dua kaum Cina dan India adalah juga manusia ciptaan Allah swt juga. Mata sepet atau warna kulit tidak ditentukan oleh manusia.

Sementara itu, frasa 'kaki botol' merujuk kepada orang yang minum alkohol. Serbuan-serbuan yang dijalankan oleh pihak berkuasa di kelab-kelab malam membuktikan kehadiran kaki botol di kalangan orang Melayu juga. Penggunaan minuman keras tidak terhad kepada satu-satu kaum tertentu.

Masyarakat Cina dan India turut menyumbang tenaga demi negara tanah tumpahnya darah mereka ini.

Industri perlombongan bijih timah di sekitar tahun 1970an dan perladangan getah dalam era 1980an tidak akan meletakkan Malaysia di tangga pertama senarai negara pengeluar tanpa usaha “si mata sepet” dan “kaki botol”.

Buat kali kedua juga BTN telah melanggar tatasusila dan budaya masyarakat Melayu yang terkenal dengan sifat kesederhanaan dan saling hormat-menghormati. Kes pertama membabitkan BTN adalah apabila sukatan kursus BTN yang menyentuh pergerakan kaum tertentu didedahkan.

Persoalan Hamim

Persoalannya, adakah kedudukan orang Melayu begitu terancam di negara sendiri? Lebih 60% penduduk di sini merupakan masyarakat Melayu Islam.

Hamim juga menegaskan bahawa masyarakat Melayu terancam kerana ada tiga parti sahsiah yang mendakwa mewakili kepentingan Melayu.

Pada pandangan saya bilangan parti yang ingin menjaga kepentingan masyarakat tidak boleh dijadikan ukuran kerana setiap parti mempunyai perspektif tersendiri untuk menyelesaikan isu. Ini tidak bermakna nilai kemelayuan dan keislaman mereka kurang dari yang yang lain.

Kepada saudara Hamim, ingin saya tanya soalan ini.

Adakah masyarakat Cina dan India ingin mengundi Barisan Nasional sepertimana kehendak saudara apabila anda menggelar mereka si mata sepet dan kaki botol?

Tepuk dada tanya selera.

K Pragalath adalah seorang pemerhati politik yang pernah berjinak dalam bidang kewartawanan.

'Slit-eyed' remark: Scrap BTN, Mahfuz tells govt

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30: PAS vice president Mahfuz Omar has urged the government to scrap the controversial National Civics Bureau (BTN) programmes as they had been proven to be a platform to fan racism in the country.
“The time has come for the government to scrap the BTN, and not reform it.
"The agency had been abused to fan racial sentiments in the country, and this is not new as it has been doing so since its establishment," said Mahfuz, in response to racist remarks uttered by BTN's deputy director Hamim Husain recently.
Referring to the Chinese and Indian communities, Hamim described them “Si Mata Sepet” (slit-eyed) and “Si Botol” (drunkard) during a gathering with Puteri UMNO members.
“The ‘si mata sepet’ that has never gone to a mosque or surau only has one vote. The ‘si botol’ that only knows how to go up to Batu Caves up and down only has one vote,” he reportedly said when explaining UMNO's wisdom behind power-sharing with different races.
Mahfuz (right) said the BTN, set up in 1974, was no longer needed as it had clearly failed to achieve its vision of instilling patriotism and good character.
"The BTN is aimed at inciting Malay sentiments just like UMNO and this clearly contradicts  and deviates from the original motives of Rukun Negara, which is to foster unity among the races in our country,” he said, adding that prime minister Najib Razak must take responsibility for the racist remarks as the bureau came under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Department.
The bureau has been fraught with controversy over the years, with participants claiming to have encountered racially-toned speeches by UMNO politicians.
Last December, amid public outrage over the bureau's continued racist orientation, deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Ahmad Maslan announced a revision of its courses in order to allign them with Najib's 1Malaysia battlecry.
"We will ensure that the BTN courses also inculcate the 1Malaysia concept and its eight values, namely high performance culture, accuracy, knowledge, innovation, integrity, strong will, loyalty and wisdom," he was quoted as saying.
'Najib has no power too?'
Meanwhile, PAS's Bukit Gantang member of parliament Nizar Jamaluddin described Hamin’s remark as an embarrassing episode, and proved that RM550 million per annum allocation for BTN to bring about racial harmony had gone to waste.
Calling on those involved to face the music, Nizar remarked that “maybe Najib will say that this is out of his jurisdiction as Prime Minister”, in an apparent reference to deputy prime minister and Education minister Muhyiddin Yassin's claim that he had no power to take action against racist principals in Johor and Kedah.
Echoing him, Jerai MP Mohd Firdaus Jaafar urged the government to take stern action against those who threatened race relations in the country.
“Even as the racist principals issue are yet to subside, the issue of a racist Deputy Director BTN arises. The government must take immediate action to prevent racial issues like this because we do not want unity threatened,” he stated.

Final Round of PKR Divisional Meetings and Elections

MEDIA STATEMENT
1 OCTOBER 2010

Final Round of PKR Divisional Meetings and Elections

The third and final round of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s divisional annual general meetings and elections will take place this weekend on 2nd and 3rd October 2010. Divisional Annual General Meetings will be held in 38 divisions with contest taking place in 23 divisions – Selangor (14); Sarawak(4); Johore (2); Sabah (1); Kedah (1) and Penang (1).

Some of the logistical problems that affected a few divisions over the past weekend can be attributed to the high voter turn out. This, compounded by the unfamiliarity of members with the newly introduced system of voting, contributed to the logistical problems that were encountered.

It may not be widely known, but the divisional party elections involves members casting their votes for positions in the Jawatankuasa Cabang, the Jawatankuasa Wanita Cabang and Jawatankuasa Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) Cabang. This means that where there is a contest, there are potentially three parallel elections taking place at the division level involving up to 46 positions:

a. Jawatankuasa Cabang – Ketua Cabang (1), Timbalan Ketua Cabang (1), Naib Ketua Cabang (1) and Ahli Jawatankuasa Cabang (15);

b. Jawatankuasa Wanita Cabang – Ketua Wanita Cabang (1), Timbalan Ketua Wanita Cabang (1), Naib Ketua Wanita Cabang (1) and Ahli Jawatankuasa Wanita Cabang (7); and

c. Jawatankuasa AMK Cabang – Ketua AMK (1), Timbalan Ketua AMK (1), Naib Ketua AMK (1) and Ahli Jawatankuasa AMK Cabang (15).

In contrast to a general election where a voter is required to remember say, two names, or more often than not just one logo, in the Pemilihan 2010 divisional elections, a voter has to choose up to 46 candidates. The actual process of marking and casting the ballot is thus more time consuming than in a general election. And when a voter is illiterate, this adds to the challenge.

The JPP has taken note of these issues and steps have been taken to try to ensure that voting over the coming weekend takes place in a smooth and orderly fashion. We call on all candidates and the incumbent leadership at the division level to work with us towards this end and to give the Keadilan Secretariat and our volunteers their full cooperation.

Dr. Molly Cheah
Chairperson
Jawatankuasa Pemilihan Pusat (JPP)

Don’t turn cash aid matter into a religious issue

By Thomas Lee

More than 40 Muslim senior citizens have returned cash aid from the Penang state government due to suspicion and uneasiness over the sources of the funding.

Bernama quoted an imam from Pulau Mertajam, Saidin Chik, 72, as saying that he decided to return the money as he learned that it was from non-halal activities.

“I received a RM100 aid sometime this year, but I heard over television and read in the newspapers that the money was from gambling activities. We have been praying everyday and suddenly we get a cash aid from non-halal sources and spent it. What is going to happen to our prayers?” he said.

Saidin told reporters this after handing over the money to Penang Umno secretary Azhar Ibrahim on Wednesday 29 September 2010.

According to Azhar, who is also the Penaga state assembly member, the Muslim recipients suffered mental anguish and emotional distress after knowing that they had received cash aid from non-halal sources, and are terrified at the thought of spending the money.

Azhar said more Muslim senior citizens are expected to hand over the money to the Umno Youth to return it to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The Umno Youth had earlier claimed that the state government was using a contribution from the Penang Turf Club to fund its hardcore poor eradication programme.

The Penang state government has acknowledged receiving RM500,000 from the Penang Turf Club, but said the money would be used to help poor non-Muslims.

Certainly, due respect must be given to our Muslim friends whose religious conscience does not permit them to accept money originated from non-halal source, but the unwitting and inadvertent incident should not exploited into a religious and political issue.

Guan Eng should not be lambasted for something which he probably assumed is proper and harmless, since over the years, the Barisan Nasional federal government has been using tax monies from the gambling corporations and haram businesses like pubs and non-halal restaurants which serve alcoholic drinks, and also from workers in haram professions such as pork sellers, to fund government and public projects.

Now that we know that it is forbidden (haram) for our Muslim citizens to accept and use monies derived from non-halal sources, then the federal government should rectify the matter, and have a special separate account for all tax monies collected from the haram sources such as Sports Toto, Magnum, the Genting casino, the pubs, and the entertainment joints and restaurants selling alcoholic drinks. These monies must never ever be used in anything associated with Islam, or in projects which may involve the Muslims.

No, I am not being cynical, just respecting the religious conscience of my Muslim brothers and sisters. Their right to practise their faith without impediment and hindrance must surely be upheld and given the utmost due respect.

Even in my own Christian faith, there are some followers who will not eat food that had been used in a worship ceremony of another religion. Although many of us who are more open and liberal do not feel restrained by our conscience on such matters, we do respect the wish and aspiration of the others who believe in the abstinence.

As for the tax monies collected from the haram sources, the federal government could use them for the building of Chinese and Tamil schools, temples, churches, cemeteries, or even scholarships for the non-Muslim students.

The totally unpremeditated “mistake” of the Penang state government should not be exploited by Umno to undermine the good and people-friendly scheme of helping the poor and needy of the state. Perhaps, Guan Eng should reoffer the cash aid to our Muslim brothers and sisters from a more acceptable source, such as rentals from Komtar or other state buildings.

Let us look at the positive side of this incident, and learn from it. Don’t aggravate the situation to turn it into a religious issue, like holding demonstrations against Guan Eng. I know Guan Eng personally for many years and firmly believe that he is a very good man with a good heart, with no malice or spite toward anybody, especially the Penangites of all races and religions under his tender care. And he is definitely not anti-Islam or anti-anybody, only anti-corruption and anti-discrimination.

Don’t exacerbate and exploit this cash aid matter, which any sane person will know and understand, has been done without any ill-intent.

PDRM sambut baik cadangan Majlis Peguam

Utusan Malaysia (Digunakan dengan kebenaran)

KUALA LUMPUR 30 Sept. - Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) menyambut baik cadangan Majlis Peguam agar siasatan terhadap seorang paderi yang didakwa menyampaikan ceramah menghina Islam di Kuching, Sarawak baru-baru ini, dibuat mengikut Seksyen 298 dan 298A Kanun Keseksaan, bukannya di bawah Akta Hasutan 1948.

Pengarah Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Ibu Pejabat Polis Bukit Aman, Datuk Seri Mohd. Bakri Mohd. Zinin (gambar) berkata, pihaknya menjalankan siasatan mengikut akta berkenaan kerana wujud unsur hasutan daripada aspek perlakuan paderi berkenaan.

Katanya, namun pihaknya juga akan mengemukakan cadangan Majlis Peguam itu kepada pejabat Peguam Negara selepas siasatan selesai dijalankan.

Beliau berkata, PDRM sedang mendapatkan bantuan teknikal daripada Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia (SKMM) dan Cyber Security Malaysia berhubung kes itu.

"Kita menyambut baik cadangan Presiden Majlis Peguam, Ragunath Kesavan agar siasatan dilakukan mengikut Seksyen 298 dan 298A kanun itu dan akan mengemukakannya kepada Peguam Negara, namun PDRM akur terhadap segala keputusan dan nasihat Peguam Negara.

"Ini termasuk mengambil kira penggunaan Seksyen 298A Kanun Keseksaan yang diputuskan Mahkamah Persekutuan dalam kes Mamat Daud dan Ors melawan Kerajaan Malaysia pada 1988 yang antara lain hanya terpakai di Wilayah Persekutuan sahaja," katanya dalam satu kenyataan, di sini hari ini.

Semalam, Majlis Peguam menggesa pihak berkuasa menyiasat segera kes seorang paderi yang didakwa menyampaikan ceramah menghina Islam di sebuah gereja di Kuching, Sarawak baru-baru ini.

Ragunath berkata, jika siasatan terhadap kes itu dilengah-lengahkan, ia bakal menimbulkan perasaan tidak puas hati di kalangan umat Islam.

Menurutnya, pendakwaan di mahkamah juga perlu disegerakan jika terbukti paderi terbabit bersalah agar semua berpuas hati dengan tindakan yang dilakukan pihak berkuasa.

Katanya, tindakan harus dilakukan dengan mengguna pakai peruntukan Seksyen 298 kanun tersebut iaitu mengeluarkan perkataan dengan sengaja untuk mengguris hati orang dalam sesuatu agama.

Seksyen 298A iaitu menyebabkan rasa tidak damai, perpecahan dan rasa tidak senang hati, prejudis kerana alasan agama juga boleh dikenakan.

Kedua-dua seksyen itu lebih spesifik berbanding Akta Hasutan.

Akhbar baru-baru ini melaporkan pendedahan Presiden Penaja Perikatan Blogger Muslim (MBA), Zainol Abideen mengenai tindakan seorang paderi, Benjamin Stephen yang didakwa menghina agama Islam dan Rasulullah ketika menyampaikan ceramah di sebuah gereja di Kuching.

Isnin lalu, Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein memberitahu, PDRM diarah bekerjasama dengan SKMM untuk menyiasat tindakan paderi itu.

Hishammuddin berkata, ceramah yang dimuat naik ke laman YouTube itu merupakan tindakan biadab dan boleh mengugat keharmonian negara.

College cancels Namewee's gig set for tonight

Controversial rapper and film-maker Namewee's scheduled visit to the New Era College in Kajang tonight has been cancelled as it fears disturbances.
namewee signing autographs 3A statement issued by New Era College said it had to cancel the event due to the unhappy events at Namewee's (left) function at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Tuesday night.

"In order to prevent any untoward incidents and to protect the college's safety and security, Namewee's event, which was supposed to be held at 7.30pm tonight, is cancelled," the statement said.
Students protesting for Namewee

However, about 100 students are protesting on campus (top photo) and demanding the administration revert its decision to cancel the event.

NONEThe students (right), made up of members of the New Era College Students Association and the Media Studies Association, said that the event was jointly organised by the latter association and the Media Studies Faculty.

As such, they should have a say on whether or not it gets cancelled. They claimed that the college did not inform them of their decision before announcing it through a media statement.
An alternative open dialogue involving Namewee and Perkasa was mooted after a two-hour discussion with college officials, but the final decision will only be made pending Perkasa's response to the idea.

No reason to cancel
The rapper's manager Fred Chong confirmed with Malaysiakini that the event, the third in the tour, had been cancelled.

"New Era College is afraid of Perkasa. The function is cancelled and Perkasa has succeeded," he said when asked for the reason behind the cancellation.

He added that while demonstrations can be held because it is a democratic country, there was no reason to cancel the function.

Namewee (real name Wee Meng Chee), 27, had kicked off his tour by going to a college in Penang, and this was followed by the event at KLSCAH, with the New Era college function set for tonight.

namewee photo burnt by perkasa members 2On Wednesday, about 50 Perkasa demonstrators burnt Namewee's picture, calling him a traitor and a pig.

Perkasa had also declared war on the rapper yesterday, when its youth chief, Arman Azha Abu Hanifah said its members are ready to act as panglima perang and hulubalang Melayu (Malay warriors), and are willing to tail the rapper throughout his upcoming promotional tour.

"We accept news (of his tour) with open arms. If he performs inside (a hall), we will 'perform' outside too," Arman had said.

The controversial rapper announced in his Facebook page, that he had cancelled his promo tour.

Meeting sought
Chong also said Namewee is seeking a meeting with the government in order to resolve the controversy surrounding the rapper's song 'Nah!'.

"Police is still investigating Namewee under the Sedition Act. If they announce the investigation result, at least it's an official answer from the authority."

Namewee had announced on Facebook that the promo tour is cancelled and announced it as a victory for Perkasa.

"I congratulate Perkasa for their success! All my following promo functions have been cancelled. I would like to tell all the organisers that cowed to Perkasa, Perkasa has won, but Malaysia has lost!"

The latest posting sparked shows of support from his fans which led to at least 450 comments within an hour.

perkasa protest at chinese assembly hall 5However, he said he won't blame Perkasa for the cancellation of his tour, but it is the media's inaccurate reports that had caused this disappointing development.

"The demonstration on Tuesday was okay, and I think everyone has the right to protest. But the media inaccurately made out that the demonstrating crowd was larger than it actually was," he told Malaysiakini.

However, he said he did not agree with the way Perkasa demonstrated, with a lot of racist remarks and actions.

The blogger had came up with the 'Nah' video where he used obscene language to bitterly criticise a headmistress who is accused of making racial slurs against her ethnic Chinese and Indian students.

Yesterday Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, announced the investigation paper on the 'Nah' video had been submitted to the attorney-general's chambers last week.

Indian court splits holy site into three parts

 
New Delhi, India (CNN) -- A disputed holy site in India will be divided in an attempt to satisfy competing religious claims to the site, the Allahabad High Court ruled Thursday.

Muslims, Hindus and a local sect all will get part of the land at Ayodhya, the court said.

Muslims have already said they will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Thousands of people have died in sectarian violence in India since Hindu extremists razed a Muslim mosque on the site in 1992. Many Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities.

They will be allowed to keep an idol in a makeshift temple under the central dome at the site, Judge S. U. Khan announced in his ruling. Khan is one of three judges on the high court.

"All three sets of parties, i.e., Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara are declared joint title holders of the property," Khan wrote.

He gave them three months to come up with proposals for which sections of the property they want, while awarding some specific areas to Nirmohi Akhara, a local Hindu sect.

India beefed up security across the country as it braced for the verdict, deploying hundreds of thousands of troops in anticipation of possible violence.

The destruction of Ayodhya's Babri mosque in 1992 sparked religious riots across India, in which more than 2,000 people died. It was some of the worst violence the country has seen since independence in 1947.

But India appeared to remain calm on Thursday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged citizens not to let extremists stir up violence.

"Often it is only a few mischief makers who create divisions in our society. I would appeal to my countrymen to be vigilant and not let such people succeed in disrupting peace and harmony," he said in a statement after the ruling was announced.

"It is my hope that the response of the people of India to the judgement will be respectful, dignified and do our country proud," he said, adding that it was "correct" to maintain the status quo until the Supreme Court hears the case.

The Allahabad court was asked to rule on a number of issues in addition to the dispute over the ownership of the land, which has been going on for decades.

But it is not clear from their rulings if the judges were able to agree on points including whether the Hindu deity Lord Rama was actually born there and when the Babri Mosque was built.

Like India itself, they appear to have split on religious lines.

India is a majority Hindu country, but has more than 160 million Muslims. In fact, only two other countries, Indonesia and Pakistan, have more Muslims than India, although India is only about 13 percent Muslim, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

India's government was determined to prevent sectarian violence over the Ayodhya ruling.

Paramilitary forces were deployed in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Home Ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said Thursday. In the rest of the country, paramilitary forces and air force aircraft are being kept on reserve.

About 190,000 forces are in place in Uttar Pradesh, Kedia said, without disclosing the total number of troops that have been deployed across India as a "precautionary measure."

India's Home Ministry also has temporarily banned bulk text messages and has urged the media to exercise restraint and to not sensationalize any possible violence.

The town of Ayodhya has been a religious flashpoint for more than 400 years. Hindus believe that Lord Rama, one of the religion's most revered deities, was born there.

The Babri Mosque was built on the site after the region became part of the Mughal Empire in the 1500s.

Two years after independence, in 1949, the gates to the site were locked after Muslims claimed Hindus had placed deities of Rama in their area.

Hindu groups have pushed to build a temple in Ayodhya, to replace the mosque torn down by Hindu extremists.

This month, Hindus and Muslims were urged to pray for peace after a judgment date was announced, and some Ayodhya residents fled to avoid potential violence.

New NUJ chief: NUJ to return to original struggles

Orang Asli gear up for gov't compensation

Zaid's vision for PKR

College cancels Namewee's gig set for tonight

(Malaysiakini) Controversial rapper and film-maker Namewee's scheduled visit to the New Era College in Kajang tonight has been cancelled as it fears disturbances.
namewee signing autographs 3A statement issued by New Era College said it had to cancel the event due to the unhappy events at Namewee's (left) function at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Tuesday night.

"In order to prevent any untoward incidents and to protect the college's safety and security, Namewee's event, which was supposed to be held at 7.30pm tonight, is cancelled," the statement said.
Students protesting for Namewee

However, about 100 students are protesting on campus (top photo) and demanding the administration revert its decision to cancel the event.

NONEThe students (right), made up of members of the New Era College Students Association and the Media Studies Association, said that the event was jointly organised by the latter association and the Media Studies Faculty.

As such, they should have a say on whether or not it gets cancelled. They claimed that the college did not inform them of their decision before announcing it through a media statement.
An alternative open dialogue involving Namewee and Perkasa was mooted after a two-hour discussion with college officials, but the final decision will only be made pending Perkasa's response to the idea.

No reason to cancel
The rapper's manager Fred Chong confirmed with Malaysiakini that the event, the third in the tour, had been cancelled.

"New Era College is afraid of Perkasa. The function is cancelled and Perkasa has succeeded," he said when asked for the reason behind the cancellation.

He added that while demonstrations can be held because it is a democratic country, there was no reason to cancel the function.

Namewee (real name Wee Meng Chee), 27, had kicked off his tour by going to a college in Penang, and this was followed by the event at KLSCAH, with the New Era college function set for tonight.

namewee photo burnt by perkasa members 2On Wednesday, about 50 Perkasa demonstrators burnt Namewee's picture, calling him a traitor and a pig.

Perkasa had also declared war on the rapper yesterday, when its youth chief, Arman Azha Abu Hanifah said its members are ready to act as panglima perang and hulubalang Melayu (Malay warriors), and are willing to tail the rapper throughout his upcoming promotional tour.

"We accept news (of his tour) with open arms. If he performs inside (a hall), we will 'perform' outside too," Arman had said.

The controversial rapper announced in his Facebook page, that he had cancelled his promo tour.

Meeting sought
Chong also said Namewee is seeking a meeting with the government in order to resolve the controversy surrounding the rapper's song 'Nah!'.

"Police is still investigating Namewee under the Sedition Act. If they announce the investigation result, at least it's an official answer from the authority."

Namewee had announced on Facebook that the promo tour is cancelled and announced it as a victory for Perkasa.

"I congratulate Perkasa for their success! All my following promo functions have been cancelled. I would like to tell all the organisers that cowed to Perkasa, Perkasa has won, but Malaysia has lost!"

The latest posting sparked shows of support from his fans which led to at least 450 comments within an hour.

perkasa protest at chinese assembly hall 5However, he said he won't blame Perkasa for the cancellation of his tour, but it is the media's inaccurate reports that had caused this disappointing development.

"The demonstration on Tuesday was okay, and I think everyone has the right to protest. But the media inaccurately made out that the demonstrating crowd was larger than it actually was," he told Malaysiakini.

However, he said he did not agree with the way Perkasa demonstrated, with a lot of racist remarks and actions.

The blogger had came up with the 'Nah' video where he used obscene language to bitterly criticise a headmistress who is accused of making racial slurs against her ethnic Chinese and Indian students.

Yesterday Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, announced the investigation paper on the 'Nah' video had been submitted to the attorney-general's chambers last week.