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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Foreward by N. Ganesan on “NOV 25 Hindraf Rally 2007” book by P. Uthayakumar.

As political landscapes move they are always preceded by a change in the political discourse driving them. Old ways of looking at society and how it gets summed up into its politics have great inertia. These are entrenched into society by the power elite, who are the beneficiaries of the old system. Even as the old politics loses it moral basis, these forces of conservatism work to maintain status quo. These conservative forces keep trying harder and harder to maintain the status quo as the situation gets increasingly pregnant with the need for the new. New participants armed with ubiquity of information, new devices of communication, a new sense of the past and a new morality unleash great forces for change.

The new morality is sensed at the fringes, and against great resistance, work their way in to the centre. The story of that Great March to the centre is told here in first person narrative by Uthayakumar in the events leading up to the Grand Hindraf Rally of the 25th of November 2007. Even as this story is being told another unfolds within it. This story within the story is of how, issues that were considered taboos and sensitive for public discourse were breached, and how new ground was broken in the national discourse since.

The story when told and heard in these flesh and blood terms interspersed with intense discussion of the taboo and “sensitive” issues is a great contribution to the change in the political discourse. The events in the buildup to the Grand Hindraf Rally and the changing paradigm of new possibilities, how it formed, developed, spread to the extent of a hundred thousand people pouring out on the streets on the historic day the 25th of Nov 2007, between the Petronas Twin Towers is narrated here in a gripping fashion.

One of the main “taboo or sensitive” issues which Uthayakumar precipitates in the course of the narrative is UMNO’s Malay Muslim racist and supremacist policies and how this was achieved through the numerous and blatant violations of the Malaysian Federal Constitution and the laws of the country. In the process he differentiates between UMNO the political party and the Malays the ethnic group, and that one does not automatically equal the other. These racist and supremacist policies are all developed and implemented by a significant mafia like UMNOPutra group in the Civil

Service, the Police, the Economic Planning Unit, Implementation and Co ordination Unit ,the Attorney General’s chambers, Judiciary, the Media and the Biro Tata Negara, just to name a few.

The other significant “sensitive” issue breached is that UMNO is the main culprit and the root cause of the problems of the Indian poor and not the MIC.

MIC was just a conniving partner in UMNO’s grand game of deceit. UMNO’s design was just to have an impotent MIC Mandore for a partner party and not one that truly represented the interests of the Indian poor. To make matters worse he also lays out in so many instances how the Indian poor had been completely abandoned including, by the Indian elite in a poverty trap unique to the Indians, far worse than the poverty that the other ethnic groups find themselves in. This also relates to the neo-colonialist conditioning of the so called multi-racial Indians who do not identify themselves with the problems of the Indian poor.

The other clear issue that Uthayakumar brings to the fore repeatedly is the

race based hypocrisy within and across the whole spectrum of Malaysian

politics where Human Rights and Justice is race based. In this he includes,

along with UMNO, all the opposition parties, civil societies and NGOs.

Uthayakumar has articulated these issues in an intense and forthright manner.

In doing so, he has certainly made an invaluable contribution to extending

the boundaries of the political discourse in the country.

What is very clear in Uthayakumar’s narrative is how he, Waytha Moorthy and Hindraf transitioned from the individual issues to the general issues of marginalization of the Indian poor as the realization of the root cause dawned on them. In the process they took on the might of entire UMNO and the government machinery at great personal risk and against general counsel of caution. The way the Indians in the country responded to their call for the rally in the end justified the risks they had personally taken. In addition this tsunami of a response does tell two things. One is that there is a deep seated seething anger and accumulated frustration within the Indian community, accumulated over a half century of abuse that found expression in this rally.

The second is the profound understanding that Uthayakumar and Waytha Moorthy had for the Indian problem to be able to sense out and create this human wave of tsunami proportions, something never before seen or heard of in Malaysia.

Even as new ground is broken in the discourse, it has resulted in a significant backlash from the power elite. Uthayakumar’s incarceration and Waytha Moorthy’s exile are just two instances of that backlash. Subsequent harassment and demonizing of Hindraf, swarming the people through the mainstream media with images of an extremist Hindraf , the outlawing of Hindraf, infiltrating the leadership with a Police plant and the bribing and seducing of the interim leader are some of the significant other responses to the threat the power elite perceived from Hindraf. This narrative helps

to clarify and to counter the many lies and negative perceptions that have been repeated by the mainstream media to “manufacture consent” for this unwarranted assault on Hindraf, Uthayakumar and Waytha Moorthy by the UMNO Government.

For their part Uthayakumar and Waytha Moorthy provided true leadership and ingenuity and made courageous decisions as events unfolded. They continue to demonstrate this courage and ingenuity today as they are the two leaders remaining, undeterred in spirit, in pursuit of the original Hindraf objectives. Three of the other lawyers incarcerated along with Uthayakumar, have gone back to their practice and a more normal life, who prior to their detention, anyway only played supportive roles rather than central roles. The Police Special Branch plant in the group, has now openly turned against the cause. The interim leader of Hindraf during Uthayakumar’s detention has been turned over by UMNO and has become a traitorous renegade. But

Uthayakumar and Waytha Moorthy keep pressing on in new-found structure and energy and keep growing in strength and in stature.

As a reader, I ask you to make a judgment for yourself. If you can accept Uthayakumar’s articulation of the causes for the Indian marginalization problem, then think why is the UMNO government so bent on destroying Hindraf, Uthayakumar and Waytha Moorthy? Is it because they are “biadap” or “kecoh” or “extremists” or selfish trouble makers? Or is it because they talk too much of the truth and that is not desirable to UMNO’s gravy train? You decide.

A basic axiom of life is that “The truth always prevails”. Whether we accept that the Sun is the centre of our Universe or not, the truth is the truth, it is objective, it will prevail. Likewise, even if the powers that be do not recognize their historical contribution to the Indian marginalization problem, the truth is the truth and it will prevail. Uthayakumar, Waytha Moorthy, HRP and Hindraf have taken upon themselves just to hasten that process.

It is only a matter of time.

N.Ganesan

18th Oct 2010


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Dr Mahathir wants fixed value for ringgit

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today that the ringgit’s value should be fixed saying that it is better than the managed float policy currently in place.

The former prime minister’s repeated calls for a fixing of the ringgit’s value has set him on a collision course with Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, one of Asia’s top central bankers, who has favoured a managed float regime for the ringgit that is supported by underlying economic fundamentals.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah also said earlier this month that the current system of a managed ringgit float is more effective than having the ringgit pegged.

Dr Mahathir (picture) said that the ringgit’s value should be fixed according to competitor exchange rates in order to maintain competitiveness and enable cost savings to be tracked.

“When to fix the new rate is dependent on the behaviour of the currency of our competitors,” he said in his blog today. “When we announce the new rate we can determine the gain or loss by the importers, wholesalers and retailers. The prices can then be calculated and any gain passed on to the consumers.”

He added that this presented an advantage of a controlled currency over a managed free float.

“It is strange that at the time when many countries have decided on currency control Malaysia is thinking of freeing the Ringgit from any control,” he concluded.

Bank Negara maintains a policy of a managed float system and said it intervenes only to ensure orderly market conditions.

It also says that it does not set targets but will allow fundamentals to determine the value of the Malaysian currency over the long term.

The central bank governor has repeatedly said that exporters should not rely on a cheap ringgit in order to gain competitiveness.

“We do not target any specific level for the ringgit,” Zeti said in a press conference recently. “We will not try to influence underlying trends.”

Figures provided by Bank Negara show that the ringgit appreciated against the US dollar, Chinese reminbi and British pound in the third quarter of this year but fell against the Japanese yen, Singapore dollar, Thai baht, Korean won, Euro and Australian dollar.

Supporters of a cheap currency say it will help boost exports but critics say a lower currency can cause imported inflation and does not incentivise industries to become more efficient and productive.

In Singapore’s case, it manages its currency in a secret trade weighted band formulated from an undisclosed basket of currencies.

'Jenapala could be victim of conspiracy'

By G Vinod - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Former PKR secretary-general Salehuddin Hashim today claimed that his former party deputy, P Jenapala, could have been a victim of conspiracy in the sacking episode.
“It is possible that it could be a conspiracy. We do not know yet,” Salehuddin said when commenting on a letter of dismissal tendered as an exhibit in the High Court here by PKR lawyers yesterday.

In an affidavit filed on Nov 23, Salehuddin, who served as secretary-general from April 2008 till January 2010, claimed he had no knowlegde of the “letter of dismissal” purpotedly signed by him, sacking Jenapala from the party.

Salehuddin claimed that the letter was never issued nor approved by him during his tenure in the party.
Speaking after lodging a police report at the Dang Wangi police headquarters here, the former PKR leader said that someone else must have been involved in it and called on the authorities to investigate the matter
“We must get to the bottom as it affects the democratic rights of the people,” he said.

Asked whether he was aware of the letter's existence before the matter was brought to court, Salehuddin claimed that it was brought to his attention a couple of days ago.

“When Jenapala filed his case in court, his lawyer called me up to query about the letter. I told him (lawyer) that it was not from me,” Salehuddin said, adding that he was then advised by his lawyers to take action.
When asked whether he contacted Jenapala, he said that the matter had nothing to do with the latter.
“He could have been sacked for whatever reason, but if this letter played a role in it, then I am upset because it has caused harm to him,” said Salehuddin.

Yesterday, the alleged 'sacking letter' dealt a blow on Jenapala's bid to challenge PKR against his disqualification from contesting for the party's deputy presidency in the recently concluded party election.

Judge Aziah Ali said the decision of a political party cannot be challenged in court as stipulated in Section 18 (c) of the Societies Act 1966 (revised 1987).

'Why only four Indians accepted study loans?'

By B Nantha Kumar - Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Only four out of the 28 Indian students who qualified for an education loan had accepted the Selangor government's offer of aid this year.

Expressing his shock, Selangor MIC Youth secretary C Sivarraajh said that it did not make sense that 24 students who were among 53 applicants for study loans had rejected the offer of a loan.

"I find this hard to believe... How come only four students accepted the state government loans... what is happening?

"Why are the students rejecting the offer? If they had applied (for loan) in the first place, it does not make sense that 24 students should reject the offer," he said.

Sivarraajh urged the Indian leaders in Pakatan Rakyat to come clean on why the Selangor government has sidelined Indian community in education.

He said that the number of Indian students who applied for education loans from the state government for 2010 had dropped drastically compared with last year.

This year, 53 students had applied for study loans and only 28 were offered loans. Of this, four students accepted the aid.

In contrast last year, Selangor recieved 110 applications. Of this, 58 were offered loans and 37 accepted it.

He also raised the issue of why the state had not offered again the rejected loans to those who had not been shortlisted.

"If the students did not want the loan, why didn't the state government offer the loan again to others who had applied but did not qualify?

"I want to know what has happened to the funds for the rest of the 24 loans," he asked.

Accusing the state government of practising racial politics, he said although they had given loans to more than 1,000 students in the state, it was done on a quota basis unlike during the Barisan Nasional regime.

Questioning arms spending in M'sia: From Altantuya to Zikorsky

Kua Kia Soong

What RM1 billion can buy? Most of us do not realize the proportion of the country’s wealth being spent on arms, the commissions being paid for arms and in many cases, questionable purchases of such arms. Compare that with the gross shortage of schools and hospitals, public transport and other social services that so many Malaysians face and the obscenity of it all can be clearly seen.

For example, RM1 billion worth of arms is equivalent to building at least 100 hospitals or 1000 new schools or 10,000 new houses. Do you know that since Independence in 1957 – after more than 50 years - there has not been a single new Chinese or Tamil primary school built? In fact we had more Chinese and Tamil primary schools then (1,350 and 880 respectively) compared to the present (1285 and 550 schools respectively). And the population at Independence was only half what it is today!

But in one weekend alone in April 2010, the BN Government could justify spending RM10 billion on arms at the Kuala Lumpur Defence Fair. With that money, we could have built 1000 hospitals or 10,000 schools or 100,000 houses! The Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-15) has allocated RM23 billion for defence and security.

Malaysia’s Recent Splurge on Arms

In Malaysia, although the last war against Indonesian “Confrontation” was over more than forty years ago, the BN Government has still made available ample funds for the Defence Minister to purchase state-of-the-art defence equipment all these years. “Military modernization” has become a new catch-word for the Defence Ministry in Malaysia to justify defence budgets out of all proportion to the national budget. At the same time, the military-industrial complexes of the West have convinced their own governments that one way to keep their economies buoyant is to sell more weapons abroad, especially to Second and Third World countries where the flashpoints tend to occur.

Up to now, there has been a lack of public outcry over the size of the defence budget in Malaysia. And while the alternative front, Pakatan Rakyat never fails to expose corruption and non-transparency in arms purchases, their alternative defence policy is not evident.

Thus, what is the purpose of this entire splurge on arms by the BN Government? Does it make sense in the light of the regional status quo and the state of our economic development? How is Malaysia’s defence budget being spent? Malaysia already has eight US-made F/A-18D jet fighters. Six Russian MiG-29s have been retired but another 10 aircraft will continue to be maintained by Aerospace Technology System in Malaysia for several years. Malaysia is seeking enough fighters for one to two squadrons. As well as the Russian Sukhoi Su-30s, other fighters Malaysia is considering include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab Gripen.

The Defence Ministry also wants to replace its 20 Sikorsky S-61 Nuri helicopters, the first of which it received in 1968. The Eurocopter EC725 was chosen in 2007 after the government had evaluated the Agusta Westland AW101, Mil Mi-17 and Sikorsky S-92. However, the deal was called off after criticism from opposition political parties.


A Futile and Wasteful Arms Race in ASEAN

The arms race among the Southeast Asian countries seems the most pointless after all the talk at conferences on ASEAN integration. Even so, each country’s attempt to be ahead in the race is self-defeating. For example, does Malaysia’s acquisition of 18 Su-30MKM planes change the balance of power in the immediate region? This is doubtful since Thailand operates 57 F-16A/Bs & has 6 Gripens on order while Singapore has even more jet fighters including F-16C/Ds, F5s and F-15SGs on order.

China's increased regional power has also given its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Malaysia an excuse to step up their own defence purchases even though our leaders keep stressing they do not see China as a threat in the region. Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that Southeast Asia’s top five arms importers – Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Singapore – spent more than US$8 billion on weapons between 1992 and 1996.

In 1997, Malaysia was described as one of “East Asia’s Big Eight” countries devoting “lavish resources” to develop its military industries. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said that these countries – China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia – were enhancing their capabilities in military organization, arms purchases, and military industrialization.

Malaysia’s rivalry with Singapore springs not from ideological differences but from the latter’s forced separation from the Malaysian federation in 1965, after a crisis emanating from the racial politics of their ruling classes. From this rivalry we can see how the ensuing arms race has burdened the peoples in the two countries with billions in arms spending.

The Non-Aligned Movement was founded upon the principles of peace, neutrality and impartiality to the Superpowers. A genuine non-aligned policy can therefore go a long way toward ridding us of the need to procure expensive arms.

Malaysia’s Military-Industrial Complex

Many are not aware of the rapid growth of Malaysia’s domestic military-industrial complex. The top brass of the military guard their power and privilege and this is nourished by easy access to the defence budget and the simple justification of “national security”. Today we have seen the growth of such a complex in many countries, including Malaysia. An offshoot of the arms purchases is the race to develop domestic defence equipment industries in each of the S.E. Asian countries. In 1993, aerospace became a new strategic sub-sector of Malaysia’s manufacturing sector. This sector is both capital intensive and involves high technology.

With the burgeoning of a domestic military economy, we see class interest developing between the ruling elite and the top brass of the military. As it happens, there is now an extensive military automotive complex in the Prime Minister, Najib’s electoral constituency of Pekan with its layers of contractors, sub-contractors, servicemen and other gainfully employed.

We also find many retired generals and other officers of the armed forces in the directorships of many if not most of these local aerospace companies. This brings into focus questionable practices in the Malaysian civil and military services when we see top military and civil servants retiring into directorships of utility and arms companies.

Most military contracts come with purchase agreements involving local spin-offs. For example, Malaysia’s Airod has an agreement for aircraft maintenance with the US Lockheed Corporation and is trying to gain a foothold in the regional aircraft upgrading market, estimated to be worth $1 billion yearly. British Aerospace’ sale of 28 Hawk ground attack aircraft to Malaysia in the early 1990s came with an offset package including the manufacture of air-frame components, cannon, ammunition and tyres in Malaysia. These products would not only be fitted to the Hawks sold to the RMAF but could also be exported to other countries using the same aircraft.

Bumiputera companies have made a mark in the local aerospace industry and the Directory of Malaysian Defence Industry Companies 2000 published by the Malaysian Industries Defence Council already listed 18 aerospace companies. Thus while most businesses are subject to market forces, defence enjoys a great deal of “featherbedding” – contracts are awarded without competition and the sector has its own government blessed “aerospace” industrial policy.

The significance of this domestic military-industrial complex to the composition of the ruling class, class relations, a right-wing tendency, patronage, employment and the outcome of elections cannot be underestimated.

Arms for Aid Scandal, 1994 

The “Arms for Trade” scandal, involving the funding of the Pergau hydroelectric dam in Malaysia, revolved around the linking of arms sales (worth RM5 billion) to British overseas aid, in the form of Aid-and-Trade Provision (ATP) funding. The linkage came to light when a senior civil servant in the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), Sir Tim Lankester, objected to the funding of the un-economical and environmentally damaging dam in 1991 but his objections were over-ruled by the then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd.

It was stated British government policy that there could be no such linkage. This government policy was based on the 1966 Overseas Aid Act. Allegations of corruption were levelled at the Malaysian government, specifically in the Sunday Times. It provoked a backlash by Mahathir’s government which announced a ‘Buy British Last’ policy in 1994. Soon after, the editor of the Sunday Times at the time, Andrew Neil lost his job as editor because of the political impact of the investigations of Pergau.

While the mainstream press in Malaysia published hardly anything on the “Arms for Aid” scandal which had erupted in Britain in 1994, the British press had a field day which subsequently led to Mahathir’s second trade boycott against Britain. These revelations in the British press on the scandal are published in this book for the first time in Malaysia.

The Murder of Altantuya and the Scorpene Deal

It took the brutal murder of a Mongolian national, Altantuya Shaaribuu in 2006 to shock the nation and for questions surrounding the purchase of two Scorpene submarines to be asked in this country and in France. Altantuya, a Mongolian translator was shot in the head on October 19, 2006, and then blown up with C4 explosives which are available only from Malaysia’s military.

According to testimony in the trial, Altantuya accompanied her then-lover Abdul Razak Baginda to Paris at a time when Malaysia’s Defence Ministry was negotiating through a Kuala Lumpur-based company, Perimekar Sdn Bhd, to buy two Scorpene submarines and a used Agosta submarine produced by the French government under a French-Spanish joint venture, Armaris. Perimekar at the time was owned by a company called Ombak Laut, which was wholly owned by Abdul Razak. The contract was not competitive.

The Malaysian Ministry of Defence paid 1 billion euros (RM 4.5 billion) to Amaris for the three submarines, for which Perimekar received a payment of 114 million euros (RM510 million). The total cost of the submarines purchase after including infrastructure, maintenance, weapons, etc. has risen beyond RM7 billion. The Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abdidin Zin told the Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s parliament, that the money was paid to Perimekar for “coordination and support services” although the fee amounted to a whopping 11 percent of the sales price for the submarines.

Altantuya, by her own admission in the last letter she wrote before her murder, said she had been blackmailing Abdul Razak, pressuring him for US$500,000. She did not say how she was blackmailing him, leaving open lots of questions. While two former bodyguards of the then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister were subsequently found guilty of her grisly murder, it raised suspicion of official cover up since their motives were never divulged to the public nor probed in court. Altantuya had had a relationship with Abdul Razak Baginda, a defence analyst from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre think-tank, with ties to Najib Razak. She had worked as Abdul Razak’s translator on a deal to purchase Scorpene submarines from France. Chapter three looks at the murder of Altantuya and its link with the purchase of the Scorpene submarines.

An Integrated and Accountable Military?

Experts say that Malaysia's air force suffers from too many aircraft types and aircraft that fail to keep up with recent purchases by its neighbours. Chapter 4 chronicles an exhaustive record of negligence, non-accountability and non-integration in the Malaysian defence sector through the years. The recent case of the missing jet engines was by no means exceptional when seen in the light of these scandals, viz. the 12 Eurocopter helicopters costing RM2.3 billion; the 27 offshore vessels ultimately to cost RM24 billion to be built by PSC-Naval Dockyard; the operational problems faced by the newly acquired Hawk fighters in 1996; the missing Skyhawks in the 1980s.

The questions Malaysians want answered are: Is the Malaysia government buying the BEST aircraft in terms of value for money? Was there a feasibility study conducted to compare prices and functionality of these copters? In the first place, why was there an issue with the proposed purchase that necessitated the PAC to conduct an investigation?

Wastage and Tragedies

Besides having to pay for the exorbitant military budget through the years, the human casualties and the loss of these very expensive aircraft is not acceptable. Apart from the tragic loss of lives of our servicemen and women, one wonders if we have been short changed by the arms suppliers or if there has been compromises on the price, quality of the equipment or even if we have adequately trained personnel to fly these ultra modern, high-tech jet fighters. And of course, the quality of management and system of accountability have been called into question often enough in the armed forces.

From 1968 to 1997, the crashes of Sikorsky Nuri helicopters had claimed 73 lives in all.
The Defence Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar who was in the United States at the time, said there was no plan to retire the Nuris; instead, the remaining Sikorsky 61A-4 Nuris would be upgraded to extend their life span. They had been in service for 22 to 30 years up until 1997.

From 1970 to 1995, there were four De Havilland Caribou aircraft crashes killing at least 17 servicemen. Then there was the crash of the Super Puma helicopter in January 1994 in which four crew members lost their lives. The Super Puma was on its way to fetch then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his delegation in Kangar when it crashed.

It was the 15th crash involving aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force since 1990 – five involved the Pilatus PC-7 basic training aircraft; four were A-4PTM Skyhawk fighter bombers. The other incidents included the Alouette III helicopter, the Cessna 402 aircraft, a Nuri helicopter and Hercules C-130 transport aircraft. It was remarked that we have lost more aircraft and pilots through accidents than through war combat.

A Military Dominated by One Ethnic Group

Despite Najib’s “1Malaysia” policy, the Malaysian military remains dominated by one ethnic group. Although there are some ethnic Indians and Chinese in the Malaysian Armed Forces, the top brass are exclusively Malay. The Royal Malay Regiment, the premier corps in the Infantry, remains exclusively Malay.

Two years after the May 13 Incident, in 1971 non-Malays constituted about 50 per cent of army officers; sixteen out of every hundred soldiers were non-Malays; the Malay and non-Malay officers’ ratio in the RMN was 50-50 while in the Air Force, more than half the officers were non-Malays; non-Malays formed 25 per cent of the navy’s other ranks while in the air force, it was 40 per cent.

By 1981, the Malay composition in the armed forces had reached more than 75% for officers and 85% for the rank and file. However, in 1993, the number of non-Malay officers in the 90,000-strong army had dipped below 15 per cent. For the other ranks, non-Malays constituted about nine per cent. The situation was even worse in the police force. It was estimated that in 1993, Chinese comprised only five per cent of the 76,000-strong force.

In 2002, then Chief of Defence Forces, General Tan Sri Mohamed Zahidi Zainuddin revealed that non-Malays made up less than 10% of the armed forces, which had about 110,000 personnel. (36) Today, it is safe to estimate the percentage of Malays in the armed forces to be more than 90%. As in the other sectors of Malaysian society, this domination of the military and the police by one ethnic group does not serve the interest of multi-culturalism in the Malaysian nation we want to build.

Checking BN’s Defence Spending

There is no doubt that ever since the Malaysian peoples’ “political tsunami” of 8 March 2008, the Barisan Nasional Government has been forced to be more circumspect about authorizing any big defence procurements for fear of losing electoral support. For instance, the BN government was forced to stall the planned purchase of the Eurocopter EC 725 helicopters. Nevertheless, this has not stopped the same BN government from allocating a record RM23 billion, or 10% of the total development allocation under the Tenth Malaysia Plan for defence and security.

It is clear that the BN Government could get away with such huge defence budgets during the last few decades because of the erosion of these safeguards in our democratic system, viz. dominance of the executive over parliament; loss of public accountability; absence of Freedom of Information legislation; inadequate separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary; poor safeguards for civil rights.

However, it is important that while Pakatan Rakyat highlights the corruption involved in arms procurements by the BN, they also present their alternative defence policy to the rakyat at the next general elections.

Stopping the Arms Race in ASEAN

Disarmament must ultimately be inclusive of all the nations within ASEAN. The peoples in ASEAN deserve a better quality of life compared to the status quo which is committed to an irrational arms race among the ASEAN countries themselves and deprives their peoples of valuable resources for social development. The financial crisis toward the end of the 1990s gave us a vision of a region without an arms race. It was not because the political leaders had come to their senses - simply that countries in the region could no longer afford expensive military equipment. Indonesia announced in 1998 that it would cut military spending by up to US$20 billion.

An obligatory ASEAN register of conventional arms is a good first step toward increased transparency in exposing the armaments of each ASEAN country. However, the register needs to be expanded to ensure that each country provides greater detail about their arms procurements and these have to be cross-checked with other sources. Beyond imports and exports, the Register should include each country’s capabilities, inventories and production levels.

Minimising the defence budget in Malaysia and throughout ASEAN can free more valuable resources into urgently needed social services and socially useful production. Wasting money on arms prevents it from being spent on health, education, clean water or other public services. It also distorts the economy and diverts resources, such as skilled labour and R&D away from alternative economic activity.

Reforms and a Culture of Peace

Working towards an end to war involves putting an end to the culture of war. It involves finding ways to resolve conflicts through changing our own attitudes and behaviour. Leaders have the responsibility to initiate that fundamental change and involving everyone in that peace-building process. It involves overcoming the fears, prejudices and other contradictions that give rise to misunderstanding, violence and conflict. It involves re-ordering our financial priorities away from wasteful and destructive arms to the social well-being of all our peoples.

Facilitating greater democracy in our society also creates a culture of peace since the more that citizens have the opportunity to participate in the running of their society and the freedom to express their aspirations and criticisms, the less likely are they to take up arms to overthrow the government.

To achieve a culture of peace would require a profound reformation but reform we must. Cooperating in shared goals and nurturing positive interdependence can help to build this culture of peace. A culture of peace should be our nation’s vision. It is a vision that is only attainable in a society that respects human dignity, social justice, democracy and human rights. It is an environment that can settle conflict and differences through dialogue and democracy and not through threats and repression.

Social change will only happen when the people are mobilised in a movement for peace. Only such a movement and consciousness can divert the billions spent on unnecessary and wasteful armaments to peaceful and socially useful production. Thus we also need the participation of an active labour movement pledged to promote socially useful, alternative production rather than armaments manufacture.

An Alternative Defence Policy

Our wholesome economic development will require the drastic slashing of the defence budget and the conversion of our military production to civilian economy or at least to purely defensive rather than offensive purposes. Such a defensive policy is eminently preferable. In the event of aggression by an outside force, having decentralised, dispersed people’s militia forces in small units armed with precision-guided, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles would be the way to wage a protracted people’s war against the aggressor. As has been proven by people’s wars in history, eg. the Vietnam war, such a defensive strategy will render useless all the tactical weapons of the aggressor, including nuclear warheads. Most importantly, such weapons of self-defence will be many times cheaper than the offensive high tech jet fighters, tanks, submarines and other vessels in the arms race we cannot hope to win anyway.

Our economic priorities need to be diverted away from military production and toward production for human needs, and public expenditure diverted to more and better social services. It is possible to retool defence-oriented establishments for alternative socially useful production without loss of jobs. As armaments production becomes more and more capital-intensive, producing socially useful goods can create more jobs than producing military goods. While civilian manufacturing industry is starved of investment, military production appropriates significant amounts of the nation’s capital, technology and skill.

In the same way that the production of energy-saving material and equipment (eg.insulation) and demand management is preferable to energy-creating expenditure (eg. dams and power stations), socially useful production to replace military production would require a mind set change and re-ordering of priorities in our society. This is the essence of sustainable living and the promotion of peace in our country, our region and throughout the world.


Dr Kua Kia Soong is director of Malaysia’s human rights organization, SUARAM. He was Principal of the community-funded New Era College (2000-08); Opposition Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya (1990-95); Director of Huazi Research Centre (1985-90); Political Detainee under the ISA (1987-89); Academic Director to the Malaysian Chinese schools (1983-85) and Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Singapore (1978-79). He studied for his BA Econ (1975), MA Econ (1976) and PhD in Sociology (1981) at Manchester University, UK.

Syed Husin on PR's 'weakest link'

(Harakahdaily) - Owing to the mudslinging and media frenzy generated from its just concluded elections, there is no prize for guessting that Parti Keadilan Rakyat could be the weakest link in Pakatan Rakyat, something which outgoing deputy president did not deny.

Addressing the party's Women and Youth meeting today, Dr Syed Husin Ali admitted that PKR "maybe" the weakest link, adding that PAS and DAP had already gone through their growing pain.

The veteran politician however rejected suggestions that PKR was a one-issue based party, and took pains to explain a brief history of its struggle since its formation following the Anwar Ibrahim saga.

Saying PKR had a comprehensive composition of members, better programmes and a wide range of basic struggles, Syed Husin reiterated that reformasi movement was the cornerstone to bring about change.

“PKR is a reformasi movement for change, and (fighting) towards an administration that can raise the dignity of the people,” he stressed, describing the party as a rainbow party with members from all backgrounds.

He also outlined several measures to strengthen its base at the national level, among which is by increasing membership, quality of the members and party discipline.

He listed four important areas to become the focus of members, which are justice for all, people's welfare, national unity, and high moral and ethical grounds.

Meanwhile, commenting on the noisy party polls, especially in the contest to fill his soon-to-be vacant seat, Syed Husin said even if he had not announced his resignation, such a conflict would still take place.

"This is my own decision. I was the one who decided on my own to relinquish my post as deputy president,” he said.

Baru Bian at MACC Kuching

The following press release was e-mailed to  me a few hours ago
______________________________________
State Liaison Chief for PKR Sarawak, Baru Bian, accompanied by his lawyer Desmond Kho and several party members, paid a visit to the MACC state office at the 12th floor of Bangunan Sultan Iskandar at Simpang Tiga here today at 3pm.
Bian said serious allegations are reported in an article which is posted at a news portal called www.sarawakreport.org under the provocative heading of ‘TAIB SHARE SHOCK!’ at http://www.sarawakreport.org/2010/11/taib-share-shock-exclusive/
According to Bian, the article contains information which is of public interest, especially for Sarawakians. Bian said it is his public duty to alert the MACC and bring the article to the MACC’s attention for further investigations.
“These are very serious allegations. As a responsible citizen of this country, it is my duty to bring this article to the attention of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission. It is up to them to further investigate the allegations,” said Bian.

“Malaysians, Sarawakians in particular, would be interested to know if these allegations are true or not. The MACC has a public responsibility to serve the public interest,”
said Bian.
Bian gave a printed copy of the article to Puan Suzita bte Marikan and Encik Omar Mokhtar bin Jahari, the MACC enforcement officers at the Investigations Unit.

Corruption Chaos in India

Image(Asia Sentinel) Cleaning out the stables

The Indian Parliament has been gridlocked for the past two weeks, or almost its entire winter session, by a belligerent opposition that is demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into an avalanche of corruption scams that have hit the ruling United Progressive Alliance government.

Trouble began for the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA coalition with the Commonwealth Games uproar last month. The sporting extravaganza brought to light the murky dealings of politicians and sports officials who had forged papers, bought equipment and materials at inflated prices and generally cooked the books. The budget eventually ballooned to around US$6 billion, even as it was hit by delayed venues and organizational problems.

Then came the Adarsh Housing Society building in Mumbai. In this, the former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was forced to resign, along with retired senior army officers and politicians had helped themselves freely to apartments meant for widows of soldiers killed in the Kargil war of 1999 with Pakistan, which took the lives of 527 Indian soldiers.

The third scam has been the most mind-boggling of the lot. In this, the Telecommunications Minister Andimuthu Raja, who was recently forced to resign, undersold 2G spectrum mobile licenses to 85-odd global firms at a throw-away price, losing the exchequer Rs1.76 trillion. Wags point out that the number of suitcases Raja would have needed to fill that loot, if laid end-to-end, would reach from Delhi to the southern city to Chennai (a distance of 2,177 km).

While the scams have already claimed the scalp of senior ministers in the beleaguered UPA government, more heads – including those of senior bureaucrats and other cabinet members – are expected to roll in the days to come.

In a flurry of arrests earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Investigation also cracked down on Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee joint director general T. S. Darbari and deputy director general Sanjay Mahendroo for their misconduct in handing out contracts at "exorbitant rates" for the games-related events.

"This highly charged, scam-a-minute scenario has highlighted debilitating and shocking graft in the ruling government," said a party functionary of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party,

The three scams have not only put the heat on the UPA government but also on Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who, many feel, has been complicit in the 'conspiracy of silence' that surrounds his government.

"How can it be that the PM had no clue of his ministers' misdeeds?" ask political observers. Obviously, they infer, the PM could not afford to displease his coalition partners, whose votes are crucial for his coalition to survive.

Nobody believes that Singh profited personally – given his squeaky clean image -- but many do hold him guilty of retaining corrupt ministers. In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court has also questioned the reason for the PM's "silence and inaction" on his tainted colleagues.

Adding to the discomfiture of the UPA government was top industrialist Ratan Tata's recent admission about corruption in the Indian executive. He said that he wanted to start an air service with the collaboration of Singapore but the minister then in charge of Civil Aviation demanded Rs 150 million as bribe. "I abandoned the venture because I did not want to pay the bribe," the tycoon said.

Sociologists say corruption is the prime vehicle to power and wealth in the world's largest democracy. It begins with the symbiotic relationship between the ambitious rich and the aspiring poor. No wonder, even six decades after independence, India ranks an abysmal 87th on Transparency International's latest Corruption Perceptions Index, even below Ghana and Rwanda.

This month, the Washington-based think tank Global Financial Integrity (GFI) published the results of a study on India's underground economy. It that says through the 60 years from 1948 to 2008, Indians illegally ferreted away more than US$460 billion overseas. Another US$178 billion is stashed away within the country. GFI believes this number could be just the tip of the iceberg as it's impossible to measure transactions from cross-border criminal activity or hawala trades.

The study, quoted in an Indian business daily, states that GFI estimates that much of the money illegally sent overseas goes through mispricing of trade: imports are overpriced and exports are underpriced. Both ensure that a lot of cash which should have flowed into India stays back.

The study also points out that as India opened up to more trade flows, the avenue to spirit money away illegally has grown exponentially. It estimates that the size of the underground economy was about 27 percent of the greater economy in the pre-reform years of 1948-1990. Thereafter, when the economy looked up from 1991 onwards, the underground economy bloated to about 43 percent.

Ironically, there is no dearth of laws and institutions to check corruption in India. The Central Bureau of Investigation brings corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and policemen to book. Then there's the Central Vigilance Commission, helmed by an independent head. Government ministries have their set of vigilance officers while states tap the services of anti-corruption bureaus manned by police officers. A landmark Right To Information law also proposes to bring in more accountability into the government.

Even so, India has a sorry record in prosecuting people for corruption. The BBC recently pointed out that there are more than 9,000 cases brought by the CBI pending in various courts. More than 2,000 of these cases have been pending for more than a decade. Furthermore, India has a conviction rate of an abysmal 40 percent, one of the lowest in the world.

The all-pervasiveness of corruption in India became evident recently when the Supreme Court questioned the controversial appointment of P J Thomas as the country's Central Vigilance Commissioner, head of an apex body which probes corruption in the country. Thomas has himself been embroiled in two major corruption scams. Yet, in its haste to ensure that the vigilance commission was one it could approve, the Congress "disregarded the spirit of the law and weakened the institution of the CVC" critics point out.

Why blame the Congress alone when the opposition itself is far from being above board. The BJP-ruled southern state of Karnataka is currently in the throes of a crisis triggered by allegations that the BJP chief minister B S Yedyurappa has been signing over government land to his relatives, who are building businesses on these plots. "All Chief Ministers do it," was Yedyurappa's angry response to a journalist.

When the BJP pressured Yedyurappa to resign, the desperate minister threatened to pull down the state government by claiming the support of 45 MLAs. Clearly, Yeddyurappa's continuation as the state CM undermines the BJP's attack on corruption in the UPA government, but it certainly doesn't prevent it from doing so.

What then is the solution to the problem to India's all-pervasive corruption problem? Analysts have often suggested that if trade and election reforms are made more stringent, things can improve. The former would deter illegal money transfers overseas and make India an easier, hassle-free place to do business in legally.

"Tax rules in India are terribly complex and cluttered with exemptions, surcharges and cesses. These need to be straightened out," says Vivek Brahmin, a Washington-based financial analyst.

Cleaning up election funding could also help. "If the government can change the rules by which political parties and election costs are funded in India, many of the larger corruption issues in India can be addressed. Election rules in India encourage political parties to accept cash due to which business houses offer cash rewards to politicians and parties. This is the starting point of trouble," Brahmin added.

Regulatory bodies like the Election Commission make things worse by capping election spends at ridiculously low levels," he said. "Legitimizing contributions of businesses to political parties can work greatly to minimize corruption."

In the military, the non-Malay is ridden like a horse

Written by Major (Rtd) D.Swami
Centre for Policy Initiatives

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi remarked that non-Malays shun a military career because they lacked patriotism. His sense of history and of the contributions of the Chinese, Indians and our brothers from East Malaysia towards the sovereignty of Malaysia leaves something to be desired. Zahid’s is a racist and bigoted view, pure and simple.

I’ve previously blogged about the winners of valour awards, not including those who had laid down their lives, are maimed, and not forgetting the non-Malay police officers.

I guess when the Chinese and Indians were bleeding and dying for this country, Zahid might just have been a dirty glint in his father’s eyes. I am not insulting this dull fellow, just that this shallow-minded individual needs some input regarding who was the first Malaysian to be awarded the Pingat Gagah Berani. He was a Chinese! Sergeant Chong Yong Chin PGB of the First Federation Regiment.

Dey Zahid, I suppose you did not know that. Insults have to be politely reciprocated with civility, I am doing just that.

Did you not know who was the first recipient of the Pingat Gagah Berani in the Congo? That person too was a Chinese, Lieutenant Lee Ah Pow PGB, read about how shoddily he was treated too! It had to take Brigadier R.S. Noronha of the Indian army (during a UN peacekeeping mission in Congo) to recommend him for an award. Lt Lee had shown exemplary courage and tremendous restraint under fire, yet his own Malaysian high command overlooked his valour.

There was another young Chinese officer, Lt David Fu Chee Meng, who too was awarded the PGB at the Battle of Tanah Hitam.

So those guys were not patriotic enough for you? Here is my favourite, someone I know personally, Sergeant Choo Woh Soon PGB, my wife’s uncle. The short guy in the centre of the photo is Sergeant Choo Woh Soon PGB. This guy, patriotic enough for you?

How about this Indian officer and Chinese soldier dying together to save your sorry butt from the commies? Captain Shanmuganathan PGB and 207770 Ranger Mat Isa bin Hassan PGB, do not be deceived by the name Mat Isa, he was a Chinese.

How about this Indian officer who laid down his life at the ripe old age of 24? Captain Mohana Chandran al Velayuthan (200402) Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa. Not patriotic enough for you? Here is another Indian who got the PGB, Second Lieutenant Panir Chellvum a/l Velaithan PGB. Still not patriotic enough for you?

M’sian soldiers burn cross

How about this where a sorry excuse for an officer caused the death of 13 Italian airmen in the Congo. The Malay Major had shirked his responsibilities of providing the airmen with protection, placed them in danger by ordering them to be brought to the mess and allowed them to be captured by the rebels. The Major then further disgraced himself by ordering all the officers and men at the mess to surrender their weapons to the rebels who had surrounded them, which they did sheepishly.

Malaysia’s name had to be salvaged in this incident by Second Lieutenants N.H. Siebel PGB and Captain Maurice Lam PGB, notice their names, they were non-Malays.

How about the time in Bosnia where soldiers desecrated a Catholic Cross? Again the situation was salvaged by the non-Malays. For posterity I have another link here about how the then Defence Minister Najib Razak excused the burning of Croation Catholic cross by two Malaysian UN peacekeepers stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina as “unintentional”.

I will not even talk about the vandalising of the Hoba meteorite in Namibia.

Here is another Indian, who after serving a total of 29 years in both the police force and the army is denied his pension. The reason being he did not attend the weapons course and tactics course. What weapons and tactics course, when he and his men wiped out the remnants of the enemy in Selangor. What would his unshaved instructors teach him? Read about him, Captain Courageous aka Mukhtiar Singh s/o Sodagar Singh.

In any other army in the world today, they would have cited Mukhtiar Singh for courage and piled honours on him without any questions asked. Unfortunately he is an Indian in Malaysia, get that Zahid?
Here is a picture of an all Chinese group of Kinta Valley Homeguards who fought the Malayan Communist Party. More pictures here.

The problem with people like Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is he does not know about people like these Chinese and Indians who were willing to die for Malaysia unconditionally. They only wanted to be treated fairly. The current situation is like “some people are more equal than others”.

East M’sians discriminated against

People like Zahid are wind bags, full of foul air and all empty talk.

If you notice the minorities were significant in numbers in the forces when Malaysia was in danger, from the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the Emergency, Confrontation and the subsequent Emergency until the cessation of hostilities by the Malayan Communist Party.

Remember the Communist Party of Malaya did not surrender. It was a treaty for the cessation of hostilities. Freeing our Great Leader to push his agenda of Ketuanan Melayu, subsequently his achievements were … I shall just cite one, i.e. the amazing statement that Anwar Ibrahim socked himself in the left eye to gain public sympathy and give the police a bad name. Mahathir could not do many of the things he has done if the Malayan Communist Party was on the warpath as it would increase their numbers. Zahid, being an ardent fan of this old goat, is still playing to the gallery.

Soldiers who have served, the non-Malays, know what it is to be discriminated against because of their race and religion. Even the Bumiputras of Sabah and Sarawak are discriminated against, as most of them are Christians.

While at this, being an ex-soldier and all, I have seen many East Malaysian officers serving in combat units. Why did not any one of them make it to General? Not good enough?

Look at how brave, loyal and patriotic they are. See in the archives for the records I’ve compiled. After seeing the results of the Sibu ‘buy elections’, where the BN lost, I guess they saw the writing on the wall and recently promoted an Iban officer to become the first Iban who made it to General, Stephen Mundaw, in September this year.

Anyway that is peanuts, East Malaysians should demand and expect at least a 4-star General from amongst the Ibans, whose bodies have been littered across the battle fields in Malaysia. Their courage and ferocity in battle is unmatched.

Lack of promotion prospects

After having served many years and plodding along, being bypassed by juniors and incompetents, there are so many grievances. There is not enough space to write it all at one go. Is it not heart wrenching? You expect patriotism to burn brightly in the hearts of the non-Malays when our children are discriminated by virtue of race and religion?

Treat everyone equally on a level playing field and you will not need to ask for the non-Malays to defend this country. The numbers would be so huge that you would have to send most of them back.

In the military, the non-Malay is ridden like a horse, for the greater benefit of the majority. No rewards, when it comes to promotions and benefits … they forget you. You know about the old race horse, that it runs until it drops dead or is put out to pasture. Most non-Malays make it to the rank of Major, I am sure you have heard this before, about the infamous glass ceiling. That is the rank you have to be happy with.

You are not promoted on merit. I know of guys who can barely speak English but become Generals. During my time all the courses were in English. Ask the ex and serving non-Malays about the subtle hints to convert. They do not even respect your faith by suggesting that. If they’re always hinting to you that you should convert, it means they look down on you.

Religious and racial discrimination go hand in hand.

I have also had the privilege of seeing a General’s knees tremble, when he stepped out of my Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) as I helped him down. This was after an exchange of fire. I was the escort commander and he was riding in my IFV in Somalia.

A hundred non-Malays would, without hesitation and asking questions, charge a hill of 10,000 enemies to defend their country, Malaysia, if you treated them and their offspring as Malaysians and not as dhimmis and second-class citizens.

I could continue shellacking Ahmad Zahid until the cows come home but it is us who are to be blamed. He is the MP for Bagan Datuk, Perak. Those of us who continue supporting MCA and the MIC, are actually getting him elected year in, year out. Your votes have made him arrogant. If you notice his majority is actually shrinking. So the strongest message for the Defence Minister would be to boot this racist Umno supremacist out of Parliament in the next general elections.

Never forget.
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This article, first published Nov 12, is taken from the blog Seventh Rangers (Mech) and reproduced here with the author’s permission and some minor editing by CPI.

Zaid Says Will Form New Party In January

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (Bernama) -- Former Federal Territory Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chief Datuk Zaid Ibrahim Friday announced that he will be forming a new party in January next year.

Speaking at press conference at his residence here, he said he would also be announcing the details on the party the same month.

However, in an apparent dig at this previous party, he said the new party would certainly not have "Keadilan" (Justice) in its name or was it Parti Angkatan Keadilan Islam Malaysia (Akim) as had been speculated in some blogs.

Asked how confident he was about the new party garnering support from the people, Zaid said: "I wish to assure our (proponents of the party's) friends that we will have a new party in the country...and I wish to give an assurance that it will not be a fledgling party, we will become big and strong."

On Nov 8, Zaid, who was contesting PKR's polls for the deputy president's post for the 2010-2012 term, quit the party citing the polls lacked transparency.

Prior to joining PKR, the former Umno member had been a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (then Datuk Seri) was prime minister.

Shocking revelation in Sarawak

By Anil Netto,


Sarawak Report has come up with a stunning revelation exposing who it claims owns Royal Mulu Resort.
See the report here.
Meanwhile Baru Bian, the State Liaison Chief for PKR Sarawak, has brought the revelation to the attention of MACC Sarawak.
Baru, Baru, don’t waste your time with the MACC.
What we need now is a response from the Prime Minister. What does he have to say about this latest revelation. Is this in line with his 1Malaysia concept?