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Monday, December 6, 2010

Leaks expose US funding fears

Saudi Arabia is a key source of funds for armed groups, including al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to a leaked US state department assessment.

In a series of diplomatic cables spanning several years, published by the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website on Sunday, the state department details how such groups continue to seek financing in Saudi Arabia, often posing as pilgrims visiting the Muslim holy sites.
"Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan," Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in one cable sent in December 2009.
"In contrast to its increasingly aggressive efforts to disrupt al-Qaeda's access to funding from Saudi sources, Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the UN 1267-listed Taliban and LeT-groups that are also aligned with al-Qaeda and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

'Significant progress'
The memo credited the Saudis with "significant progress" under US pressure to deal with the issue, especially disrupting Al-Qaeda's finance channels.
However, it said that "Riyadh has taken only limited action" to interrupt the flow of money to Taliban and LeT-associated groups which have launched attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

In July 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that the Taliban get more of its funding from wealthy Gulf donors than from the drug trade for which Afghanistan has long been famous.

According to the cable, the annual hajj pilgrimage posed a particular problem for Saudi authorities attempting to stop the flow of money to armed groups.

"Hajj was still a big problem for the Saudis, since they could not refuse to let pilgrims enter the country. Some of the non-Saudi terrorism detainees in Saudi Arabia had entered as pilgrims," it said.
A cable sent in August 2009 detailed how Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which the US accuses of being a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, raised funds through "private donations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), madrassas, and businesses spread throughout South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe".

"Some of JUD's budget, using funds raised both from witting donors and by fraud, is dedicated to social services or humanitarian relief projects, while some is used to finance LT operations," it said.
The cable said that Lashkar-e-Taiba officials were operating front companies in Saudi Arabia to move funds that could be used to carry out attacks.

Direct donations
US officials have also complained of direct donations by wealthy individuals and a reluctance by governments to monitor charities.

Informal money transfer networks called hawala, or worker remittances compound the problem.
Kuwait, another key US ally in the region, comes in for criticism in the memo sent by Clinton in 2009 for being the sole nation in the six-member Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) that does not have a specific law criminalising the financing of "terrorist" groups.

"The GOK [government of Kuwait] at times has obstructed or been slow to enforce UN-mandated asset freezes of Kuwait-based entities," it said.

Qatar, which hosts a large US military base is also singled out its "largely passive approach" to co-operating with Washington on tackling the financing of armed groups.
"Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, UN-1267 listed LeT, and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale," the state department memo said.
"Although Qatar's security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the US and provoking reprisals."

UAE 'vulnerable'
United Arab Emirate-based donors were identified as having "provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups".
"The point can be emphasised that the UAE's role as a growing global financial centre, coupled with weak regulatory oversight, makes it vulnerable to abuse by terrorist financiers and facilitation networks," the state department cable said.

In another cable from December 2009, Howard Mendelsohn, the US treasury department acting assistant secretary of the office of intelligence and analysis, stated his belief that the "Taliban and Haqqani Network [a Pakistan-based group fighting Nato forces in Afghanistan are believed to earn money from UAE-based business interests".
"Treasury analysts provided information on ... two senior Taliban officials who have made multiple fundraising visits to the UAE, according to U.S. intelligence," the cable said.
"The UAE security services were not familiar with either individual and asked for additional identifying information."

Wet rally against water monopoly

Sultan withdraws Ku Li's royal household award

The Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V has withdrawn the Darjah Kerabat yang Amat Dihormati (DK) (Al-Yunusi) title and
Ahli Yang Pertama (Seri Paduka) Bagi Darjah Kebesaran Mahkota Kelantan Yang Amat Mulia (SPMK) (Al-Muhammadi I) awards which had been bestowed on Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

tengku razaleigh speech 110310 02Announcing this last night at a press conference at Istana Balai Besar, state secretary Mohd Aiseri Alias said the withdrawal of the titles and awards were effective Dec 2.

Tengku Razaleigh, 73, is the maternal grand uncle of Sultan Muhammad V.

Mohd Aiseri also announced the withdrawal of the Ahli Yang Kedua (Dato' Paduka) bagi darjah Kebesaran Jiwa Mahkota Yang Amat Mulia (DJMK) (Al-Ismaili I) conferred on Dr Yaacob Hussain Merican, 72, as well as his appointment as a Justice of Peace (JP), also effective Dec 2.

According to him, Tengku Razaleigh and Yaacob had been informed of the withdrawal of the titles and awards via a letter sent to each of them on Dec 3.

He said the withdrawals were the prerogative of the Sultan.

It is understood that Tengku Razaleigh had made a statement which was reported by a Chinese daily on Sept 14 which had hurt the feelings of the Kelantan Sultan as the statement was felt to have doubted his highness's appointnment as the Regent then.

Yaacob, meanwhile, had represented the plaintiff in the suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Oct 25, over His Highness's appointment as the Sultan of Kelantan.

- Bernama

FDI at risk with vague NEM 2, says Ramon Navaratnam

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — The Najib administration will face continued investor scepticism until it is more explicit on how to make Malaysia a high-income nation, warned one of those who drafted the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam, who had helped Tun Abdul Razak draft the NEP following the deadly 1969 race riots, said the recently unveiled second New Economic Model (NEM) report was filled with good intentions but “very short” on specific measures.

“And therein lies the problem... Investors, after waiting so long, find they’re back almost to square one in terms of the specifics and policy proposals they can act on,” Navaratnam (picture) told The Malaysian Insider.

“I had expected much more from part two. To that extent, I am disappointed,” the former senior civil servant said about the NEM 2 unveiled last Friday.

The Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman stressed that more concrete proposals were needed to reassure domestic and foreign investors alike so they would not take their money elsewhere.

Private sector confidence is critical to the success of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ambitious NEM as the government expects the private sector to fund 92 per cent of the US$444 billion (RM1.37 trillion) needed to sustain the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) over its 10-year period.

“How can FDI (foreign direct investment) feel comfortable when there are a lot of motherhood statements but no specific proposals that can affect policy?” Navaratnam asked.

The former Finance Ministry deputy secretary-general pointed out that investors had already been made “uncomfortable” be delays to the second half of the NEM, as that suggested Najib’s administration had “misgivings” about some of the reforms proposed by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC).

“For example, what is the position of Bumiputera equity? Is it on or off? And for how long more?” he asked.

Navaratnam said the government — which rejected an Asli report stating that the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target had already been achieved and even surpassed — had yet to commission an independent study as recommended by the think-tank.

“This 30 per cent issue, there is doubt as to whether or not it has not been achieved,” he said.

“The Bumiputera share has well exceeded 30 per cent and it’s no longer an issue, unless they’re now bringing about a change in policy and wanting more than 30 per cent.”

The outflow of domestic and foreign investment and capital will continue until the government can convince investors there was enough political certainty in Malaysia, the former Transparency International Malaysia president added.

He stressed that time was critical for investors, who were more than willing to go to Indonesia, China, India, or anywhere else in the world where there was a greater level of certainty.

“My hope and prayer is that, having made the mistake of not coming out with specifics, that these specifics be spelt out as soon as possible in a comprehensive manner and not in dribs and drabs,” he said.

Navaratnam urged Putrajaya to act quickly in this respect, even as the ongoing movement of capital and talent away from Malaysia “erodes” the prospect of Najib’s ambitious transformation plan.

“The sooner the matter is settled, the better for the economy and the prospects for take-off rather than a dive-down,” he said.

MACC arrests Khir Toyo, faces land fraud charge

SHAH ALAM: Former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo has been arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and is expected to be charged later today over alleged land fraud.

He was arrested this morning. Also taken in by the MACC is Ditamas Sdn Bhd director Shamsuddin Haryoni.

Khir is expected to be charged with Shamsuddin for allegedly committing a land fraud for the purposes of building a mansion.

Khir is alleged to have accepted two land lots from Shamsuddin for RM3.5mil in May 29, 2007 when the said lots were bought by Shamsuddin for RM6.5mil in 2004.

The charges against the two men carry a two-year jail term, fine or both.

The issue over Khir's Balinese-style mansion in Section 7, Shah Alam was first raised by Sekinchan assemblyperson Ng Suee Lim who questioned Khir's extravagance in the contruction of the mansion and the price paid for the land.

Ng claimed that Khir had contructed the mansion at a cost of RM20 million and had purchased the land for RM3.8 million, claims which were denied by the former Selangor Umno strongman.

Ng's accusation also saw Khir suing him for defamation.

It is believed that both Khir and Shamsuddin are presently being questioned by the MACC at its state headquarters in Shah Alam.

MORE TO FOLLOW

Sodomy trial: Judge says no to Anwar's recusal application


KUALA LUMPUR: High Court judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah today dismissed Anwar Ibrahim's application to disqualify the judge on grounds there was no real danger of bias.

He then fixed Jan 21 to mention a new date to continue Anwar's sodomy trial.

Anwar is expected to appeal against the decision, making it unlikely for his trial to continue unless his appeal process has been exhausted.

Last week Mohd Zabidin said he will deliver his decision today following Anwar's application to disqualify him on grounds of "intimidation".

He had also said that he will proceed with the trial proper if he decides not to recuse himself.

Anwar, the 62-year-old PKR de facto leader and former deputy prime minister, is currently facing sodomy charges for the second time in his life.

He is charged with sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at Unit 11-5-1 of the Desa Damansara Condominium in Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara here between 3.01pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.

He is charged under section 377B of the Penal Code and can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years’ jail and whipping upon conviction.

Anwar's lead counsel Karpal Singh had submitted that Mohd Zabidin should disqualify himself because of he had "intimated" the veteran lawyer.

However the prosecution submitted that Anwar was only applying to disqualify the judge to buy time and that it was a "delay tactic".

In a written affidavit filed along with a notice of motion to disqualify Mohd Zabidin, Anwar said the judge had “threatened” Karpal when the lawyer gave notice of the defence’s intentions to file an application to disqualify him.

DPM post a recipe for endless troubles

By Joe Fernandez - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT Critics kicking up a fuss over the proposal by de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim to appoint DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang as deputy prime minister forget that the post is not mentioned in the Federal Constitution. The appointment, an administrative convenience, would take place if and when Pakatan Rakyat seizes the reins of power in Putrajaya.

The Federal Constitution only mentions the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers. The critics of the “Lim for DPM” proposal are being misled, again, by the notorious “ketuanan Melayu” ideology which generates much of the rhetoric, polemics and debates these days in the country and continues to fuel the rising level of racial tension.

It was the first Prime Minister, the Malay-Thai Tunku Abdul Rahman, who opted for the administrative practice of appointing a deputy prime minister. His publicly stated reason was that he wanted to ensure that, after him, another Malay would be prime minister. This was in line with the unwritten social contract – misread these days as ketuanan Melayu – that the Malays would lead the politics to compensate for Chinese economic dominance.

The unwritten social contract got much media play during the Tunku administration which had no interest in forcing anyone to take up any skill, task or occupation. The federal government also stayed out of business and left it to the private sector.

Briefly, the unwritten social contract was an agreement among the big three at the time of independence in 1957 in Malaya – Umno, MCA and MIC. The last party, named after the Congress Party of India like many other similar outfits in the Indian diaspora including the African National Congress of South Africa, was set up to fight for the independence of India and not Malaya. It had no qualms about the unwritten social contract. MCA had no choice but to go along besides being motivated more by economic concerns.

The opposition in Peninsular Malaysia was not a party to the unwritten social contract.

After Malaysia, the unwritten social contract was unilaterally extended to Sabah and Sarawak. Kuala Lumpur decided that the two states should be ruled by Muslim proxies, locals and foreigners, and the majority non-Muslim natives kept out of the political mainstream.

A source of conflict

If the critics had any concerns on Anwar’s DPM proposal, they should have instead proposed that the post be “abolished”. A ship cannot have two captains. In the past, the source of conflict in the ruling administration has been the existence of the DPM post.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein, an Indian-Bugis, ousted Tunku in a virtual coup d’ etat in the wake of the searing Sino-Malay riots of May 13, 1969 that accompanied opposition gains in the general election three days earlier.

Razak’s deputy, Ismail Abdul Rahman, an Indian-Malay, died of a heart attack while in office.

Deputy prime minister Hussein Onn, a Turk-Malay, who replaced his brother-in-law Razak after the latter passed away suddenly of leukemia in London, was eased out of office by his deputy, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir, an Indian Muslim, even had Hussein’s office cleaned out while the latter was away in London for medical treatment.

Mahathir had trouble with three deputies – Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba, Anwar Ibrahim – all of whom he ousted in various ways. Musa, a Sino-Malay, was publicly accused time and again of being impatient to replace him until the man resigned on an impulse. Ghaffar was ousted by Anwar with Mahathir’s blessing. Anwar, an Indian-Malay, was sacked by Mahathir as deputy prime minister and finance minister, expelled from Umno and incarcerated on corruption and sodomy charges.

Mahathir’s fourth deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, a Sino-Malay, went on to become prime minister. Abdullah let out Anwar shortly after he assumed office. Mahathir rallied key Umno leaders behind him and had Abdullah removed after the 2008 general election.

Razak’s son, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, has an uneasy relationship with his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin. Fingers are being pointed in Mahathir’s direction. It’s no secret that Mahathir is impatient to see his son, Mukhriz, climb the greasy pole as soon as possible. Mukhriz, the Umno Youth deputy chief, was even appointed a deputy minister in the Najib Cabinet while Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth chief, was left in the cold at Mahathir’s insistence.

If Najib falters at the next general election, the knives will be out for him and Muhyiddin will replace him. Mahathir is evidently working on this day and night. In return, Muhyiddin will have to appoint Mukhriz as his deputy prime minister, continue to keep Khairy out of the federal Cabinet and ensure that Anwar rots in jail.

Undisguised contempt

The DPM post invites so much intrigue, persistent rumours of the top two not being on good terms, quarrels over the spoils of office if not a share of the loot, and talk of Team A and Team B.

Full Cabinet ministers, if they are aligned to the prime minister, treat his deputy with nothing but undisguised contempt. They don’t have to take any orders from him and don’t hesitate to snub him at every opportunity. This only further fuels the ambition of the DPM to oust his boss as soon as possible and take over in order to get even with his foes in the federal Cabinet.

If Pakatan insists on retaining the DPM post, if and when it assumes the mantle of power in Putrajaya, the party should take a leaf from the defunct Semangat ’46 founded by Kelantan prince and Umno warlord Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Razaleigh had reportedly been cheated out of the Umno presidency and the premiership by Mahathir in 1987.

Razaleigh had pledged that if and when he became prime minister, he would have five deputies –Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dusun and Iban.

It would be a good idea for Pakatan to adopt Razaleigh’s pledge instead of having only one DPM or, as it’s being speculated, two DPMs, that is, Lim and Azmin Ali.

Having five DPMs would be safer than having only one or two in the post.

Suitable candidates for the five DPM posts in a Pakatan federal government would be Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lim Kit Siang, Hindraf Makkal Sakthi chair P Waytha Moorthy, Sabah strongman Jeffrey Kitingan and James Masing from Sarawak.

One further innovation would be the five DPMs deciding among themselves, by secret ballot, which one of them would be prime minister. In this way, all of them stand a chance.

The first Pakatan prime minister cannot be decided by the five DPMs but instead would have to be worked out by consensus among the top coalition leadership. If Anwar is locked away by Najib before the next general election, the choice of prime minister would be a toss between Razaleigh and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, a Korean-Malay, in that order. Wan Azizah, being disqualified from contesting a general election for five years from the date of her resignation as Permatang Pauh MP, would need to be sworn in as a Senator if appointed as prime minister.

Still, the best option is to abolish the DPM post so that the ship would have only one captain. There would also be less politicking.

Fighting corruption: Stop the sandiwara

By Paul Low - Free Malaysia Today

COMMENT Dec 9, 2010 is the United Nations Anti-Corruption Day. It is a day to commemorate and remind nations and their citizens of their continuing battle against corruption.

Corruption must be recognized as not just an economic crime but also a crime against the society at large that undermines and cripples its institutions, including making public services inefficient, costly and unavailable or affordable to the poor, and increasing the risk to safety and health of the people.

For example, a corrupt act of awarding a contract to an incompetent but well-connected builder for the construction of schools can put the lives of our children at risk.

A single act of bribing enforcement officials to “close an eye” to illegal logging causes the loss of thousands of acres of virgin rainforest forest, its biodiversity destroyed, people displaced and collateral damage of landslides, floods and climate change.

Likewise, granting licences to unqualified drivers and certifying unworthy vehicles to be road worthy through corrupt practices can lead to accidents and deaths. Furthermore, the practice of multi-tier subcontracting often grossly inflates costs, promotes shoddy work and delayed and incomplete projects.

Corruption affects all strata of society but with the greatest impact on the poor who may be denied access to basic services. Therefore combating corruption is integral to the quest for social justice.

It is quest against exploitation by abusers who enrich themselves with disregard for the suffering of others. It is a betrayal of the trust given to them by the people.

Trial of broken promises

Many leaders and others in authority have made many promises to combat corruption but we have only seen a trail of broken promises. Essential reforms are compromised and not implemented consistently.

Critical resources that are required are not made available. Form becomes more important than substance. Denial, excuses, lukewarm efforts and window dressing are used to deflect complaints about failure to effectively combat corruption.

The public’s lack of confidence and distrust in the establishment is reflected in its cynicism and scepticism and reflected in its negative perception of the country’s effectiveness in combating corruption.

How often do we hear the public describe enforcement action as a “sandiwara” or, it is all a drama!

Therefore, if Malaysia is to progress to in her fight against corruption, she must ensure that commitments to stop corruption must be translated into concrete actions, enforcement and results.

To be sustainable, the battle must be fought on all fronts and address all facets involving the people, institutions, laws and values.

Change is only sustainable if there is widespread public support. It is the people who must push for and demand accountability from those who are entrusted to govern and administer. The fight against corruption starts with every individual. All must stand up and uphold zero tolerance against corruption.

The countries with low corruption usually have strong institutions that have high level of integrity and are able to enforce laws without fear or favour.

Strong institutions

Institutions consisting of regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies such as the anti-corruption commission, the police, the judiciary and the prosecuting agency are the ones that can bring about real change as they are the ones with the capacity to allow or reduce corruption.

These are institutions that can make or break entrenched interests that allow “state capture” to influence government decisions and policies in favour of the abusers regardless of the detriment to the public.

These institutions must become responsible, accountable and transparent in all matters affecting public interest. They must be independent of politics and influence of any sort.

A corrupt act involves both a giver and a recipient. Not just the recipient must be dealt with, but also the giver.

Although regulators in recent time require improvement in corporate governance especially amongst the listed public companies, the emphasis on combating corruption is lacking.

The absence of a coordinated and holistic approach makes corporate governance compliance superficial.

What is required is the comprehensive implementation of a corporate integrity system for each corporation that builds an effective governance infrastructure, the use of integrity compliance tools and capacity building. It is time that the regulators make such measures obligatory.

Malaysia has adopted wide ranging anti-corruption legislation and has ratified but not implemented the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Effective and impartial enforcement is critical if public trust is to be gained. It will be a mockery of the legal system if impunity and not justice prevails.

Robust enforcement that is impartial and fair is required and sentences must be punitive enough to act as deterrent.

A strong message must be conveyed that corruption does not pay. Furthermore, government-to-government collaborative measures must be taken to confiscate fruits of corruption including assets stashed in tax haven offshore accounts.

'Say no to corruption'

Finally, progress in eliminating corruption cannot be achieved just by law enforcement and institution strengthening.

If people choose to be corrupt or have anything less than zero-tolerance for corruption, then corruption will persist.

Therefore, there must be a change in the beliefs and the values of people.

For too long, Malaysians have treated corruption as less than an economic crime. Often, corruption is driven by greed, unbridled materialism, the love of money and also the lust for power.

How can we have integrity, accountability and transparency without the conviction in the hearts of people that corruption is a sin against God and society?

Therefore, coupled with governmental measures, core values of integrity, honesty and righteousness must be instilled, especially among the youth and future leaders.

Leaders today must lead by example and walk the talk for they have a strong impact in shaping the values of the youth.

Eliminating corruption starts with each and every individual saying “No to corruption”.

Paul Low is the president of Transparency International Malaysia. This is his open letter to all Malaysians.

Uncommon Sense with Wong Chin Huat: Does Malaysian politics need a third force?

Is there room? (© Tim Schapker | Flickr)
Is there room in Malaysian politics for a third force? What will it look like? (© Tim Schapker | Flickr)
TALK has been rife recently of a “third force” in Malaysian politics. Civil society groups have proposed their own candidates for the 13th general election. Datuk Zaid Ibrahim wants to form a new political party.
But is there room in Malaysian politics for a third force? What would it look like? And why is the idea gaining ground when Malaysia hasn’t even firmly established a two-party system? The Nut Graph asks political scientist Wong Chin Huat in the latest instalment of his column Uncommon Sense.
TNG: What is the third force?
Wong Chin Huat: In a two-party system, the minor parties are called third parties. The term “third force” in Malaysia is often associated with civil society — that is, independent from the two contenders for state power i.e. the ruling coalition and the opposition.
Why is the idea of a third force gaining popularity in Malaysia?
Talk of a third force is getting popular because many citizens are feeling disillusioned with PR. This is not surprising as citizens often become disillusioned with professional politicians in democracies. The Tea Party movement’s rise in the US is an example of popular revolts against the political class. It is also unsurprising that the population abandons once-”heroes” of democratisation after the zest over political transition dissipates. Most democratic opposition parties in former Eastern European communist states, for example, handed back power to their reformed “enemies” (ex-communists repackaged as Social Democrats) after one or two terms in power.
What is surprising is that this disillusionment in Malaysia happened as fast as it did — before PR has even won federal power. PR’s defeat in the Galas and Batu Sapi by-elections was privately characterised by a polling expert, I think aptly, as PR’s and [Datuk Seri] Anwar Ibrahim’s mid-term disaster.
What can explain PR’s rapid decline in popularity? Why can’t PR unite in view of the bigger goal of winning the general election?
PR’s rapid decline is due to its failure to convince Malaysians that it can be really different from BN, notwithstanding remarkable reforms carried out in Penang and Selangor.
Are there trojans in PR? (© Dora Mitsonia | Sxc.hu)
Are there Trojan Horses in PR? (© Dora Mitsonia | Sxc.hu)
A major contributor to the perception that PR is just another bunch of power-crazy politicians is their in-fighting. Perhaps they are over-confident of victory. More likely, they lack confidence so they are fighting a life-and-death battle for whatever they have now. Perhaps they are infiltrated by “Trojan Horses” sent by Umno or BN. More likely, they are simply too trapped in the winner-takes-all mentality so prevalent in Malaysian politics.
Whatever the reasons, the fact is PR no longer captures the imagination of a big segment of the silent majority. Many from this silent majority were politically activated just before, during or after the 8 Mar 2008 general election. They expected the democratisation pathway to be straight and smooth, with clearly defined good characters (PR) and bad characters (BN). Call it innocence lost.
Many of them may just not be bothered to bring themselves to the polling booth in the next general election. Perhaps that’s what BN needs to win back a two-thirds majority, even without the help of constituency redelineation.
What would the third force look like and how big an influence would it have in Malaysian politics?
The third force may take two ultimate forms: as PR’s partners whether from within or without, or as PR’s competitors. To succeed, either form would require the third force to win phenomenal support from the disillusioned or independent middle ground.
If the third force takes a pro-PR form, it must be able to win anti-BN voters disaffected with PR. If they cannot do so, PR will not concede some winnable seats to them at the expense of alienating their own party cadres. And if they want to compete with PR and emerge victorious in three-corner fights, then they need to win over some PR partisans on top of securing the disaffected middle-ground votes.
Whether or not this third force would be able to win over these cynical, “disillusioned” voters and even some PR supporters will depend on whether they can show that they are in a different league. The “disillusioned” bloc is simply too impatient to know who are the good and bad characters in the intra-PR power struggle. These irritated and impatient voters just want different politicians.
Zaid Ibrahim
In this sense, I doubt Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s camp will survive better than Berjasa and Hamim, PAS’s splinter parties led by former Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Muhammad Nasir and former party president Asri Muda. The failure of SAPP — a party appealing to Sabah nationalism — to even emerge second in Batu Sapi speaks volumes of the nationalisation of Malaysian politics since 2008.
Fresh faces such as non-governmental organisation leaders and public intellectuals who have never joined party politics will also face challenges if they contest in the elections. In urban constituencies which are more receptive to new politicians, they may still not be able to outshine most of the PR incumbents or candidates who are mostly the better halves in the coalition. If they aim at the weaker links in PR or BN, they may find their battlefield in rural areas where strong party machinery is a must and a strong factor in determining election outcome. For example, if fielded in Kinabatangan, would even Raja Petra Kamarudin be confident of victory against Datuk Bung Moktar?
Are Malaysians then held ransom to the two camps if there is no room for a third force?
I am inclined to be more imaginative in defining the third force. Why must it be seen as the third competitor? Why can’t it be the referee to the two competitors?
referee (© annette crimmins | sxc.hu)
The third force could be the referee to the two competitors (© annette crimmins | sxc.hu)
At the end of the day, what would make the notion of the third force work is the ability to reignite the middle ground’s passion. If voters do not trust politicians now, perhaps energy would be better spent getting them to trust themselves. To see in themselves the ability to change politicians and not just be cynical and bitter.
In this sense, the third force can take the form of organisations and movements such as Bersih 2.0 which is civil society-led, and the anti-100-storey mega tower Facebook page which has 250,000 members but is deliberately leaderless. If Malaysians are eventually strong enough to stop flawed political elections or extravagant architectural erections, the two coalitions will get the message and the third force candidates will eventually find some breathing space.
In the long run, a way for smaller parties or groups of independent candidates to emerge as a check and balance to the dominant parties is to hold local elections with smaller constituencies. The electoral system will also need to be reformed so that some are elected through party list proportional representation. Curiously, this has rarely, if ever, been raised in talks of a third force, not even as a long-term vision.

“Kembalikan Hak Air Kepada Rakyat”

MIC Meets To Finalise Power Transition

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 (Bernama) -- MIC's Central Working Committee (CWC) began its historic meeting here this morning as the party charts its first power transition in 31 years.

The CWC meeting will finalise the details of the hand over of power between the party's longest serving president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and his deputy Datuk G. Palanivel.

Samy Vellu arrived at the party's headquarters at 9.56am and was greeted by the 61-year-old Palanivel and CWC members.

Samy Vellu, 74, who took over the helm of the party in 1979 after the death of its sixth president Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam, had said last week that the party would see a smooth power transition.

He is expected to get the CWC's mandate to hand over the leadership to Palanivel, his former press secretary, who will become MIC's eighth president.

MIC vice-president and Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam is expected to be named the deputy.

Why licensing publications is undemocratic

Aliran

as published in
Aliran on 27 Aug 2010


Executive intervention in the media strengthens the suspicion that the BN government doesn’t take kindly to criticism from various quarters, notes Mustafa K Anuar.

Harakah, Suara Keadilan and The Rocket, the party organs of Pas, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) respectively encountered problems with the Home Ministry over the issue of permits for their publications. These publications were said to have operated without valid publishing permits required by law, and consequently the Ministry issued them show-cause letters.

The grave outcome is that the publication of these party organs was delayed, causing difficulties to the respective parties: think of the costs incurred as a result of the halt in publications, the interrupted communication between the parties and their readers, both members and the larger public.

Home Ministry officials argued that the delay in issuing the permits was not deliberate; instead it was apparently caused by the Herculean task of going through more than 300 permit applications every month and vetting the previous one-year publications of each applicant to ensure that the publications had not violated any provision of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

If that was the case, then sceptics would say that it is a problem that the Ministry should sort out, and solve quickly and not let it affect other parties. Besides, if these publications had been editorially and politically kosher throughout the entire duration of the permit, why would the Ministry officials then need to vet them again prior to issuing the permits?

Like other political parties in Malaysia (such as Umno, MCA and MIC), Pas, DAP and PKR too have the democratic right to spread their respective ideologies, ideas and policy statements to the public. Party organs are even more crucial for opposition parties given the fact they are often not given (enough) space by the mainstream media, which are largely owned by the ruling group.

As we are all aware, even if the opposition politicians and parties do appear in the mainstream media, they often are depicted in a negative light and portrayed as squabbling partners in Pakatan Rakyat – as if there is no friction or tension within the ruling BN coalition.

Robbed of their right

Another grim implication of this permit denial is that ordinary Malaysians are robbed of their democratic right to have access to information and ideas from a broad spectrum of the political parties that exist in the country. To be sure, Malaysians have (or should have) the right to make an informed choice when it comes to voting a political party into power.

Equally undemocratic is the stipulation from the Home Ministry that the distribution and sales of the party organs be restricted to party members only. This would violate the democratic right of members of the public to gain access to the publications, ideas, political philosophies of the political parties concerned.

Yet another severe implication is that the party organs are not given the right to defend themselves in the face of accusations that they have made editorial or journalistic errors. If it is true that they indeed have made a horrible mistake (such as defamation), they then should be brought to court where truth and justice can be achieved.

It doesn’t serve the cause of justice and democracy when the party organs have been bludgeoned by the Home Minister via the refusal to issue a publishing permit for a matter that requires a settlement in court. It means the executive has interfered with what could have been a judicial process.

Such executive intervention strengthens the suspicion that the BN government doesn’t take kindly to criticisms from various quarters of society despite its purported willingness to listen to the rakyat.

One important lesson from this sordid episode is that the PPPA is archaic and irrelevant to modern times – an insult to intellectual decency, democracy and justice.

What should be put in place instead is a Freedom of Information Act as has been done by the Selangor state government recently, a step that goes a long way towards democratising communication. This is a concrete way of helping to make a reality out of mere slogans of transparency, accountability and good governance.

Mustafa K Anuar is assistant secretary of Aliran.

Iran nuclear program self-sufficient, top official claims

(CNN) -- Iran now produces everything it needs for the nuclear fuel cycle, making its nuclear program self-sufficient, the head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization told state media Sunday.

The Islamic republic has begun producing yellowcake, Ali Akbar Salehi told Press TV.

Salehi's announcement came just a day before Iran is to continue stalled nuclear talks with the so-called P5 plus 1 countries -- Germany and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.

That's no coincidence, CNN's Reza Sayah says. Iran wants to show that despite ever-tighter sanctions, it is not negotiating from a position of weakness.

The United States was not surprised by the announcement, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told CNN.

"Iran has been trying to develop an indigenous program for years given that the import of yellowcake is banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions," he said.

But he said the move raises further concerns about Iran's intentions "given that Iran's own supply of uranium is not enough for a peaceful nuclear energy program."

Salehi said the yellowcake was coming from the Gachin mine.

That mine is too small to produce all the yellowcake for a nuclear energy program -- Iran's official reason for building nuclear reactors -- but could be useful for a secret nuclear weapons program, nuclear expert David Albright told CNN.

"The Gachin mine is tiny relative to what is needed for a nuclear power program," he said. But it "could be significant from the standpoint of a covert nuclear weapons program, since it could produce plenty of uranium for an Iranian nuclear weapons program."

Iran has another mine and mill, but they are not yet operating, he said. That mine is twice as large, though still small from the point of view of a nuclear power program.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog does not inspect Iran's uranium mines and does not know how much uranium Gachin produces, Albright said.

"So the main interest in Gachin is finding ways to ensure that all its uranium is accounted for. Iran has little interest in allowing that right now," he concluded.

Yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium, is a uranium oxide concentrate which is then heated to remove impurities, the International Atomic Energy Agency says.

Iran had been importing it, Salehi said, but is now mining it and processing it within the country.

The IAEA monitors Iran's yellowcake processing at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility.

Despite Iran's claims that it can now run the entire nuclear fuel cycle without help from abroad, it is not clear that Tehran actually has the technology to turn enriched uranium into fuel rods to run a nuclear reactor.

Russia is supplying the fuel rods for Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.

The United States and its allies fear that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it.

The nuclear talks are set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday, said a spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief.

The spokeswoman said the goal of the talks is to end Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

National Security Council spokesman Hammer said they were "to underscore the concern of the entire international community in Iran's actions and intentions."

It has been more than a year since the Islamic state has had formal discussions with the P5 plus 1.

Iran has been under stiff sanctions over its continuation of uranium enrichment.

Two Iranian nuclear scientists were targeted by bombers on Monday, leaving one dead.

Iran blamed Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom's spy agencies for the attacks, which killed Majid Shahriari and injured Fereydoun Abbasi.

But Salehi said Sunday that the "assassination of Iranian scientists will not hamper our progress."

Defending WikiLeaks

U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has asserted that the U.S. justice department is investigating to bring charges against WikiLeak's Julian Assange for disclosing classified information. Survival of WikiLeaks from brewing legal challenges in the U.S. Courts is essential for bringing charges of war-crimes and crimes against humanity against Sri Lanka officials. A recently released cable from US Embassy in Colombo has revealed U.S. diplomats believed "responsibility for many alleged [war] crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka." The remaining 3324 cables from Colombo are likely to contain information of interest to Tamils on the evolution of US policy towards Sri Lanka conflict.


Julian Assange, Founder WikiLeaks
Julian Assange


Particularly important will be cables attributed to former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Robert O'Blake. Blake whose tenure lasted from September 2006 to June 2009, was the closest U.S. observer of the unfolding war in Mullaiththeevu where an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.

Blake is the current Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. He has been known to have advocated reducing the rhetoric on "genocide" and for Tamils to find a way to work with the Rajapakse regime.

Legal survival of WikiLeaks, and its charismatic founder Assange are, therefore, critical to Tamils.

Baruch Burgess, the attorney who represented two Israeli lobbyists from American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) charged for leaking information that had been disclosed to them by high-level U.S. officials, says that prosecuting WikiLeaks in US courts will be difficult.

Burgess says "there is no statute making it illegal to reveal classified information. There are statutes that criminalize the disclosure of very specific types of classified information, such as the identity of a covert operative or "codes, ciphers or cryptographic systems." But there is no catch-all law that simply says, "Thou shalt not disclose classified information.""

Prosecutors would resort to the Espionage Act of 1917, an archaic, World War I-era statute that prohibits "willfully" disclosing "information relating to the national defense. Prosecution must prove that a defendant knew that the information he was disclosing was potentially damaging to national security and that he was violating the law.

Letters by Assange to the U.S. government inviting suggestions for redactions and that WikiLeaks has no desire to put individual persons at significant risk of harm or to harm the national security of the United States, will make Justice Department's case against Assange especially difficult, Burgess says.

Burgess also points out that Assange can rely on the courts to be vigilant in protecting his First Amendment rights and affording him the same protection that traditional media enjoy.

Judge Ellis, in the AIPAC case, rejected the prosecutors' categorical - and dangerous - argument that when classified information is at issue, the First Amendment affords no protection.

Justice Department would have to prove that Assange's disclosures were so dangerous to national security as to override the First Amendment. In the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the prosecution would have to demonstrate that what the defendant did was as immediate and as dangerous as "falsely shouting fire in a theater." That is a heavy burden to meet, Burgess points out.

WikiLeaks prevailing in any possible legal challenge in the U.S. Courts is of significant interest to the Tamils in the search for evidence to establish Sri Lanka's criminality amounting to genocide of Tamils.

Soi Lek: Certain words should be considered taboo

MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek wants the BN, in the spirit of cohesiveness and unity of a multiracial coalition, should consider five words as taboo and do away with them.

Speaking at the BN convention today at Wisma MCA, the words on his list were `pendatang' (immigrants), `penumpang' (passengers), terutang budi (feeling of indebtedness), `kurang patriotic' (not patriotic) and `ketuanan Melayu' (Malay sovereignty).

"Youngsters do not like to hear such remarks which are not only distasteful but considered outrageously derogatory. Leaders must also be reminded that they are expected to not only say the right thing but also in do the right thing," he said.

mca 140910 chua soi lekThe MCA president also reminded BN leaders that whatever is pledged must be translated into action.

"When it comes to organising BN events or functions, it must reflect that we are working as a team in the state and federal level," he said.

Adding that this convention was crucial as there was a buzz of an impending general election, Chua (right) said BN had to synergise its resources and further enhance its coalition machinery to the fullest.

"The March 2008 election has sent a clear signal that BN must change and revamp itself for it to win votes and public support to stay in government. It cannot be business as usual for BN as we have to change to reflect the 1Malaysia agenda which is inclusive, multiracial and people first."

Equal voice

The MCA president reminded that power sharing in the coalition must mean each component party should enjoy an equal voice in bringing up issues.

"There should not be any big brother or small brother within the coalition. We are all working towards the same cause and purpose. We are all equal partners. BN must pursue the middle path of moderation and at the same time, we need to strengthen the public delivery system, which is a sore point by the voters.

"We have to accept the reality and weaknesses in our system and act accordingly so as to improve on it. We can no longer be living in a denial mode."

The younger generation, he said expect BN to be fair and democratic in its decision making, and not focus on development alone.

"It must be accountable with what it preaches and not allow promises to turn out to be rhetoric. BN must not be seen as merely collaborating during the elections but must be genuine in power sharing at all times."

As equal partners, Chua said decisions pertaining to policies should not be announced at the Umno general assembly or at its supreme council meetings only.

He also addressed that outdated approaches adopted by BN must be removed.

He said the slogan "Undilah Barisan Nasional untuk Kestabilan" had outlived its time, he proposed it be changed to Vote BN = 1Malaysia = High income for all.

Vernacular schools not a political compromise

Dr Chua said vernacular schools, which are part of the educational landscape should in no terms be considered as a "political compromise".

NONE"Vernacular schools should always co exist with other schools such as Sekolah Agama Rakyat, sekolah Arab, international schools and mission schools. Such a feature in our educational landscape is in line with our 1Malaysia agenda of promoting diversity.

"Mandarin or Chinese education should not be viewed along the racial lines. The emergence of China as the second economic power in the world, means that the Mandarin language has great economic significance," he said.

Chua said in order for Malaysia to flourish, it must draw its strength of humility and moderation and inter-racial harmony founded on justice, democracy, mutual consultation and diversity.

Saying the rakyat is the nation's stakeholder, the MCA president said that if the country achieves respectable growth annually, the people will benefit and trust the government.

"Let us work together to make BN, the party of choice by the rakyat. BN must work hand in hand to defend Putrajaya from Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat's march to Putrajaya will then continue to be a dream," he said, in ending his speech.

MCA rejects ‘big brother, small brother’ system in BN

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 – MCA made full use of today’s Barisan Nasional (BN) convention to push for equal treatment within the coalition, sternly telling its Umno allies that there should not be a “big brother, small brother” system in the ruling pact.

Its president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek (picture) delivered a hard-hitting speech this evening and made direct references to Umno as he shrewdly reminded the ruling party that MCA, and all other component parties, deserved to receive equal recognition as coalition partners.

The veteran politician even took a direct swipe at Umno by pointing out that MCA was not in agreement with how important government policy decisions was made during Umno Supreme Council meetings instead of in Cabinet.

“MCA is of the opinion that we should cooperate with one another as equal partners and for that very same reason as well, MCA feels that important policies should not be announced during Umno annual general meetings or Umno Supreme Council meetings, where such a decision differs in status from that of the Cabinet’s,” he said during the winding up speech at the BN convention at Wisma MCA here this evening.

He noted that the rebranding of BN component parties should be in tandem with BN’s multi-racial makeup and should not occur merely in Umno.

“MCA feels that there should not be a big brother or small brother in BN’s ranks. We are all equally responsible to fight in the same struggle and with the same objectives. We are equal partners,” he said.

MCA, the second largest component party in the ruling pact, has oftentimes been criticised as being subservient to its BN allies in Umno.

However, since Dr Chua assumed leadership in the Chinese-based party earlier this year, the straight-talking politician has been pushing for a greater voice in the pact, acknowledging that it was this alleged subservience that had caused a sizeable chunk of the Chinese electorate to abandon BN in Elections 2008.

Among other things, Dr Chua has called for the abolishment of the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target, earning himself the wrath of top Umno leaders like its deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Although the row between two BN giants eventually fizzled out, Dr Chua continued to remind the Najib Administration to stick to its inclusive ideals enshrined in the Prime Minister’s 1 Malaysia concept.

As today’s convention is the pact’s first since its dismal performance in Elections 2008, Dr Chua took the opportunity to expound on his call for equality in BN to the other minority component partners in the ruling pact. There are 13 coalition partners in BN.

“My fellow component party friends, I believe we are all aware that the young generation of today are more critical and dissatisfied with the development we have achieved to date.

“They do not want a government that is only good at talking but unable to take action. BN should not be seen as a coalition that only unites during the elections; it should be seen as one that believes in power sharing at all times,” he said.

Dr Chua also criticised the government’s Public Service Department (PSD) for failing to be in tandem with the BN government’s policies, claiming that the agency was given far too much power in hiring, firing and disciplining civil servants.

The MCA president was likely referring to recent incidents when government school teachers accused of uttering racial slurs against the non-Malay communities had gotten off the hook with a mere slap on the wrist.

At the height of the furore caused by the incidents, Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had claimed shrugged off the issue, claiming that despite being the Education Minister, he had no power to mete out disciplinary action against the errant civil servants.

Instead, said the country’s number two, the prerogative to punish civil servants lay in the hands of the PSD.

“How could this happen? We should have a more effective system in giving incentives as well as to punish so that those who are accomplished will be rewarded while those who are errant will be adequately punished,” he said.

Dr Chua suggested that it was time to amend the General Orders on the powers it accorded to the PSD to hire and fire civil servants.

“This is to ensure that there will not be an abuse of power or weaknesses in the system as well as to ensure that the PSD’s powers will not exceed those of the minister chosen by the people,” he said.

Additionally, Dr Chua also cautioned leaders against using sensitive words like “pendatang” (immigrants), “penumpang” (passengers), “terhutang budi” (indebted to), “kurang patriotic” (unpatriotic) and “ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy).

Such words, he added, should be labeled as taboo in Malaysia.

Dr Chua also pushed for an equal distribution of election allocation among BN component parties, adding that it was important for the coalition to work as a team.

“For example, when we put up our campaign posters, it must reflect multi-racialism as stipulated in 1 Malaysia. Our posters must display the faces of other leaders in BN besides the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s,” he said.

Dr Chua even used Pakatan Rakyat as an example of such inclusivity, pointing out that in the opposition pact’s campaign materials during the last Galas by-election, the faces of all three component party leaders were displayed – DAP’s Lim Guan Eng, PAS’ Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat and PKR’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Najib slams 'evil' Pakatan

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid - Free Malaysia Today

FULL REPORT KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional chairman Najib Tun Razak today lashed out at Pakatan Rakyat, calling its leaders “traitors” and “evil”.


The prime minister said this when opening the ruling coalition's second convention since 1995. It was held at the MCA headquarters in Jalan Ampang.

Apart from calling on BN component parties to remain united, Najib dedicated a lengthy part of his speech to chastising the opposition, signalling the start of the ruling coalition's campaign in the run up to a possible snap election.

Najib, whose attack was mostly concentrated on the Anwar Ibrahim-led PKR, called the Pakatan lynchpin a “deceitful” and “opportunistic” party which was prepared to do anything for power.

"They are extremely dangerous. They will sell anything, including our nation's pride by disgracing our country abroad... they are anti-national. We must fight them at all cost," he thundered.

PKR, he said, was a pact plagued by internal problems and received little support.

Proof of this was the party's recently concluded polls which was marred by allegations of irregularities and low voter turnout, he added.

"This has two connotations. One is that the party does not receive the support of the masses. What I mean is that this party only represents the interests of a certain group that is after power.

"Second is that the integrity and credibility of the party are questioned by its own members. It was their own members that rampaged, created havoc, threw chairs and were disappointed," said Najib.

Pakatan a pact for family dynasties

Most of the complaints surrounding the PKR polls centered around allegations of nepotism, where Anwar was accused of pulling the strings to ensure that his people were elected to key posts.

Najib said while PKR had been the loudest in accusing BN of nepotism, the fact that Anwar was PKR's de facto leader, his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail president and their daughter Nurul Izzah was recently elected vice-president indicated that it was PKR which does this.

"I want to ask, who practices nepotism now?" said the premier.

Najib also said the same about DAP, which he called "Parti Anak Beranak Sdn Bhd (Father and Son Party Sdn Bhd)” in reference to party supremos Lim Kit Siang and his son Guan Eng.

According to the prime minister, DAP was also a Chinese-chauvinist party.

"If you look at the central leadership, despite the fact that Malays and Bumiputeras form 67% of the population, they only have two representatives.

“What is worse is that there is no representation from the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak.. they are a one race party that has made chauvinism as the philosophy behind their struggle," he added.

Training his crosshairs on PAS, Najib said the party had sacrficed its Islamic principles by collaborating with "big liars, forgers of documents and traitors to the country".

“We know that they (Pakatan) desperately want to take Putrajaya, they want to live in Seri Perdana (the prime minister’s official residence) and because of that, they are willing to do anything to grab power,” he said.

Watch out for four diseases

Najib also warned all 13 component parties of the four diseases that may cause its fall - delusion, inertia, amnesia and arrogance.

Najib said BN must curb the creeping complacency and change its ways if it wishes to remain relevant to the country's now volatile electorate.

"The fact is a party that is too long in power seldom questions or introspect its own weaknesses," Najib told delegates at the convention.

"Firstly, the disease of delusion comes because the party has taken for granted that the support from the people will continue. Secondly, amnesia hits when a party has forgotten its purpose and the original objective of its struggles.

"Next, the inertia disease occurs when parties refuse to implement reforms or make changes.
Finally, arrogance is born out of the attitude of refusing to accept advice from others.

“All these diseases, particularly arrogance, will only result in hatred from the people and disgust in our leadership, he said.

Monolob ritual to appease the mountain spirit

By Luke Rintod - Free Malaysia Today

FEATURE Kundasang is famous because here stands the soaring and majestic Mount Kinabalu, a Unesco World Heritage site. But one day in a year, this pristine site is closed to all except the native Kadazandusun community in Sabah. It is the day of the "monolob".

"Monolob" is an age-old ritual which literally means 'appeasing the spirits of the mountain'.

Years ago the mountain and its sprawling verdant foothills was native land but the area is now a gazetted park.

It is still however home to many indigenous people who have lived here for generations and who have a deep and intimate knowledge of the Kinabalu forest.

To them the mountian is scared and its loft peaks, a resting resting place of departed souls as they journey to the afterlife.

On Friday Dec 3, the community's high priest, Lunsing Koroh performed the 'monolob' ritual to appease the mountian spirits and request that they allow for safe passage for the eastimated 15,000 climbers who scale the southeast Asia's highest peak annually.

For many years Koroh used to scale the mountain and perform the ritual at Panar Laban, some 3,353 metres above sea-level, not far from the Low's Peak summit which was 4,095metre (13,435 feet).

But he's 85-years-old now and less able to make the trip. This year he carried out the ritual at the park's Timpohon Gate, the point where climbers start their ascend to the mountain of spirits. And this time he was aided by his son-in-law Dauni Landson, who is 54 years old.

"My old age is slowing me down ..," said Koroh who inherited his "momolian" (high priest powers/wisdom) from his great great grandfather.

"I hope someone much younger will take over this task from me in future..." he told his 97 friends who had joined that morning.

Among these friends were his potential successors. The 'monolob' ritual this year co-incided with a high priest annual pilgrimage to the mountain or what they call in the local dialect "kakapan do gayo ngaran".

The rituals

The "monolob" ritual involved the slaughtering of seven (the magical number for the Kadazandusun tribes) white chickens. White chicken is called "kombura" in the local dialect.

"Kombura" or white chicken is the preferred sacrificial bird for this kind of ritual. Black chicken is also sometimes used in Kadazandusun rituals but for different purposes, said Koroh.

Koroh said the natives of Kampung Kiau and Kampung Bundu Tuhan called the greatest Kinabalu spirits as "Komburawan" . White chicken were refered to as "kombura".

Besides the seven white chickens, the offering for the spirits included eggs, betel-nuts and tobacco.

The ritual started in the misty morning hour with Koroh slowly shaking his "komburongoh", a mystical collections of rare species of Borneo plants which are said to be guarded by the spirits.

He then began chanting age-old incantations of mantras in old Dusun language, barely understood by today's Kadazandusun denizens.

Through this incantations, Koroh would invoke a special relationship between the natives and the spirits of the mountain. He would also remind the spirits of their special inherent positions to ensure safety for good climbers to the mountain.

Koroh would also appease the spirits by saying prayers that those setting foot on the mountain are respectful of mother nature and would not desecrate the place.

At the end of his incantations, seven fowls were slaughtered and the meat set aside for cooked consumption at home.

Honouring spirits

Koroh then planted a piece of sharp-edged wood where the white chickens were slaughtered.

According to him, the speared wood would act as a weapon to punish those who fail to adhere to good behaviour while inside the areas under the purview of the spirits.

Koroh said among the acts which were discouraged are the plucking of plants without good purpose, killings of animals where it is not necessary, desecrating the summit, belittling the seats of the spirits or the greatness of the mountain, and straying from the safe established path.

"But if someone wants to stray from the path, they must be courteous and ask permission from the spirits first," said Koroh.

But if a major trail is to be established then the high priest must be summoned to once again appease and forewarn the spirits, he said.

Koroh added that if the spirits are unhappy then they may manifest their disagreement through dreams, abrupt change in weather or a sudden strange illness to befall those involved in the scheme.

It is said that the famous guide in the 1940's, Gunting Lagadan, a Kadazandusun village headman, who ascended Mt Kinabalu hundreds of time, too conducted the same appeasing ritual before each of his ascends.

This ritual was however discontinued for some unknown reason between 1970 and 1992.

During this time, in 1976, a form five student was reported missing while climbing Mt Kinabalu. In 1989, two other climbers from Sarawak met with the same fate. Their bodies were never recovered.

The Kadazandusuns believe the departed spirits would not have missed the huge Mt Kinabalu in their epic spiritual journey.

The spirits would reach for the mountain and mark their visit by scratching their claws against it or "kumahit" in the local dialect.

This is why the community calls Mt Kinabalu, "kokohiton" which literally means "the place to scratch".

Heritage site

In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established Low's Peak height at 4,095 metres (13,435 feet) above sea-level, some six metres (20 feet) less than the previously established and hitherto published figure of 4,101 metres (13,455 feet).

Kinabalu is the tallest peak in Borneo's Crocker Range and is the fourth tallest mountain in the Malay Archipelago after Indonesian Papua's Puncak Jaya, Puncak Trikora and Puncak Mandala.

Kinabalu is also the 20th tallest mountain in the world by topographic prominence.

The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with over 4,500 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and 100 mammalian species identified.

Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia flowerplants and the Orangutans. And it is for this reason that Kinabalu has been accorded Unesco World Heritage Site status.

14-year-old's marriage sparks debate


AFP pix caption: A mosque in Malaysia where the marriage of a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old teacher has triggered a debate

KUALA LUMPUR: The public marriage celebration in Malaysia between a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old teacher has triggered a call for a fresh debate on child marriage.

On Saturday, schoolgirl Siti Maryam Mahood and Abdul Manan Othman celebrated their marriage at a mosque in the capital Kuala Lumpur, after a religious syariah court approved the union.

"It has been hard trying to juggle two roles -- as a student and a wife -- but I am taking it in my stride," Siti Maryam was quoted as saying by the New Sunday Times newspaper.

"My husband is a teacher at a primary school and he is a family friend," she said according to the daily which said the girls' parents matchmade the couple and that the syariah court granted them permission to marry in July.

Ivy Josiah, executive director of leading activist group Women's Aid Organisation, said that laws which allow underage marriage in certain cases must be dumped by Malaysia, a conservative and mainly Muslim country.

"I certainly hope this will spark a fresh round of open debate. There should not be any roadblocks... that it involves culture and religion and hence we cannot talk about it," she told AFP.

Josiah has previously said that "child marriage amounts to paedophilia".

Muslims below 16 who want to get married must obtain the permission of the religious courts. Those of other religions aged below 17 must have the consent of civil authorities.

"We need to remedy the flaws in the law. There are exceptions in the law. These exceptions should be removed. The government can no longer turn a blind eye," Josiah said.

"The government should set the minimum marriage age of 18 for all races -- boys and girls since the Child Act recognises a child as anyone below 18," she said. "We need to protect the child."

In Malaysia, Muslims make up about 60 per cent of the 28 million population. For certain issues including family law they are subject to Sharia which operates in parallel with the civil legal system.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the minister for women, family and community development, said in July that underage marriage was "morally and socially unacceptable".

- AFP

Has the 2008 tsunami run its course?

By Vijay Kumar Murugavell

Some opine that political support is like a pendulum, if that is so the political tsunami on March 08, 2008 could have really begun in 2004 where the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration won a record 92 per cent of the seats in Parliament. The resounding mandate could generally be attributed to weariness after 22 years of Mahathirism.

There was euphoria all around as Malaysians were hopeful that corruption and other injustices would be addressed. Abdullah, popularly known as Pak Lah, was a phlegmatic character who seemed very dovish compared to the hawkish Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

At that time those who raised the alarm as to the almost non-existent opposition in Parliament like me were dismissed as alarmists and cynics.

It did not take long for right-wing ethno-nationalists to hijack Pak Lah’s reform agenda.

What Pak Lah did with that mandate is now water under the bridge but it is widely acknowledged that he failed. Many factors caused this initial euphoria to die down and BN was punished at the ballot box in the last general election.

The election was suspiciously called about a month before Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was eligible to contest, at the same time many BN leaders had declared that Anwar was not a factor, irrelevant, etc.

This had proven to be a major strategic blunder borne out of arrogance as Anwar was not confined to his own constituency and was free to criss-cross the country to help co-ordinate the loose opposition coalition campaign machinery and strategy. BN lost its customary two-thirds majority and an unprecedented five states.

This time, supporters from the opposition camp were euphoric. Many who were accustomed to power were seen as sulking and unable to be magnanimous.

On the flip-side, many from the opposition camp found themselves in charge of administering state governments, some of whom were seen as arrogant, depending on one’s political affiliation.

Anwar has been called many names, among which that he is an untrustworthy person with the gift of playing political spin in his favour.

However, what many people fail to see is that Anwar has managed to accomplish the Herculean task that no one before this has been able to do, which is to unite the opposition parties with diverse ideologies into an alliance that subscribes to justice, equality and a quest to end corrupt practices, which are not so different from Pak Lah’s pledges.

Fast forward to the present and PKR is mired in much controversy. This was exacerbated when Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a former Umno minister, left PKR in a huff, alleging party electoral irregularities. In the corporate world if the boss is insecure about his position it is likely to manifest in disunity among his team where his subordinates are likely to follow the cue and backstab new employees.

Zaid sympathisers believe this is what happened to him. Zaid too caused confusion when he declared his on-again, off-again intention to contest.

Imagine if Zaid had won the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat and now left PKR, what a conundrum that would be!

Zaid must appreciate that he was allowed to contest in the first place, unlike T. Murugiah, who left the PPP for the MIC because the party constitution decrees that newcomers cannot contest positions for three years. Zaid should also learn grace from Kulasegaran who, despite feeling sidelined, declared he will not leave the DAP.

In an even contest too it is unlikely for Zaid to win but this does not mean PKR does not have to address its internal problems. It is pointless to maintain party status quo but lose the confidence of the voters.

PKR also has a responsibility to explain to all Pakatan supporters the status of registering PKR, DAP and PAS as a formal coalition with the Registrar of Societies. Zaid was designated with this task, so what is the plan now?

The low turnout for the PKR party polls is also very alarming and cannot be explained away without properly auditing membership rolls. Do you see your leadership of the Pakatan coalition as a responsibility or a privilege?

Please appreciate that PAS and the DAP have not reacted despite being baited by BN. Are you open to constructive criticism without jumping to conclusions?

Because there will be plenty coming your way should you succeed in capturing Putrajaya.

You have to go beyond reformasi.

English statesman Robert Bulwer-Lytton (1831-1891) once said: “A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.” Seen in our current context this means if Pakatan does not go beyond submarines, Altantuya, TBH, 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower, etc (and I don’t mean to say abuses should not be highlighted), you will not go further than denying BN its two-thirds majority.

To capture Putrajaya you must articulate beyond a reasonable doubt what the shape of a Pakatan federal government will be.

Even a bad idea is better than no idea at all, which repressive laws, Acts, ordinances will you repeal when you come to power?

What will you do to win over civil servants, many of whom are BN loyalists, from possible revolt? In the first place where is your shadow Cabinet?

This is the most fundamental platform for a government in waiting. If you cannot do that and assure the rakyat that they can safely hand federal power to you, then I am afraid there is a great possibility of seeing BN win with two-thirds majority indefinitely and you will go down in history as what Lim Kit Siang famously warned “a one-term wonder” and after a while everyone will begin to wonder why they backed you. The ball is in your court.

Half a brain is better than Hafa-baked-rizam

Here is the evidence that UMNO is represented either by an imbecile or a dishonest,  lying lawyer.
“Article 153 is entrenched in the constitution and something which cannot be amended or questioned – Umno legal advisor Mohd Hafarizam Harun, as reported in Malaysiakini yesterday.
Article 159 (1) of the Federal Constitution : Subject to the following provisions of this Article and to Article 161E the provisions of this Constitution may be amended by federal law.
Article 159 (5) of the Federal Constitution : A law making an amendment to Clause (4) of Article 10, any law passed thereunder, the provisions of Part III, Articles 38, 63 (4), 70, 71(1), 72 (4), 152, or 153 or to this Clause shall not be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.
The constitution provides that Article 153 can,with the consent of the Rulers, be amended.
Contrary to what Hafa-baked-rizam says, Article 153 can be amended. Difficult, maybe even practically impossible, but legally possible.
You want more evidence that this Article 160(2) Malay is a liar?
Malaysiakini also quotes him as saying :
“The ISA should be invoked against PKR, DAP or PAS leaders who continue to question the special position and privileges of the Malays because it is now proven that they try to stoke hatred towards the Malays because of the special rights.
Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution provides : It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
There is no provision anywhere in the Federal Constitution for privileges or special rights of the Malays.

Model Ekonomi Baru dan Penarikan Subsidi: Bukti Dasar Barisan Nasional Yang Berbolak Balik dan Berat Sebelah.

Kenaikan harga sebanyak 5 sen RON 95 merupakan kenaikan kali kedua
berturut-turut dalam masa 6 bulan. Pengumuman yang dibuat oleh Dato’
Seri Idris Jala juga meliputi penarikan subsidi terhadap beberapa
barang keperluan seumpama gula(kenaikan sebanyak 20 sen),
diesel(kenaikan sebanyak 5 sen) dan gas petroleum cecair(kenaikan
sebanyak 5 sen).

Manakala Barisan Nasional menegaskan peningkatan harga tersebut adalah
kecil dampaknya terhadap rakyat, namun hala tuju dasar negara yang
terbentuk kesan dari kenaikan tersebut tidak boleh dipandang ringan.
Barisan Nasional melalui PEMANDU telah membentangkan pada sesi Hari
Terbuka Rasionalisasi Subsidi bertarikh 27 Mei 2010, bahawa sudah ada
rancangan untuk menarik balik subsidi minyak jenis RON 95 pada setiap
6 bulan. Pengumuman semalam mengesahkan akan ada kenaikan harga pada
masa hadapan, berkemungkinannya kenaikan yang lebih besar jumlahnya
dari yang dicadangkan iaitu kenaikan 10 sen setiap 6 bulan.

Penarikan balik subsidi beberapa jenis barangan juga diusulkan
termasuklah subsidi gas yang berkait rapat dengan Janakuasa Bebas yang
dimiliki segelintir elit korporat dan kroni Barisan Nasional. Namun
sehingga kini kelihatannya kenaikan harga hanyalah terhadap barangan
keperluan dan pastinya rakyat keseluruhan yang merasa pedihnya,
bukannya kroni.

PEMANDU menganggarkan sejumlah RM 1.12 billion akan dijimatkan pada
tahun 2010 sekiranya subsidi gas untuk Janakuasa Bebas serta sektor
bukan tenaga dapat dikurangkan. Ini dapat dicapai sekiranya harga gas
untuk Janakuasa Bebas dan sektor bukan tenaga naik masing-masing RM
4.65 per mmbtu(million British unit haba) serta RM 2.52 per mmbtu.
Sehingga kini, kerajaan melalui PETRONAS, berhasil menyediakan subsidi
buat Janakuasa Bebas dan industri lainnya sejumlah RM 19 billion
setiap tahun kerana harga gas selepas subsidi hanyalah RM 10.70 per
mmbtu(untuk Janakuasa Bebas), harga yang dikira amat murah jika
dibandingkan dengan harga pasaran buat gas yang diimpot iaitu RM 38
per mmbtu (sekiranya negara terpaksa mengimpot akibat dari
kekuranganpengeluaran).

Oleh itu kita mahu Perdana Menteri dan pentadbiran beliau memberi
penjelasan mengapakah mereka terburu-buru untuk menarik balik subsidi
minyak, gula dan gas petroleum cecair, sedangkan kesan dari keputusan
tersebut hanya akan membebankan rakyat terbanyak. Pada masa yang sama
kita mempersoalkan tindakan mereka kerana kebijakan tersebut tidak
menjurus pula terhadap golongan elit korporat terutamanya mereka yang
rapat dengan pemerintah.

Tambahan pula sehingga kini kita hanya dihamburi janji sedangkan
perubahan yang dijanjikan hanya sekadar suatu wayang dan permainan
komunikasi terutamanya berkaitan sistem pengagihan subsidi. Kita
berpandangan Perubahan mesti disegerakan kerana ianya mustahak demi
memastikan bantuan dari pemerintah sampai kepada golongan
berpendapatan rendah sekaligus meringankan beban mereka berhadapan
dengan kos sara hidup yang meningkat.

PEMANDU begitu tangkas memastikan subsidi ditarik balik, akan tetapi
begitu perlahan mengungkapkan penyelesaian untuk mengagihkan semula
subsidi demi kepentingan rakyat terbanyak dan miskin.

Justeru kita ragu keberkesanan serta iltizam untuk melaksanakan
perubahan walaupun bahagian terakhir Model Ekonomi Baru baru sahaja
dibentangkan. Model Ekonomi Baru diwar warkan sebagai satu rancangan
untuk membawa perubahan terutamanya buat sistem ekonomi, namun sejarah
menjadi saksi apabila tiba waktu untuk melaksanakannya, mereka
sentiasa gagal.

Barisan Nasional cuba meyakinkan kita betapa penarikan balik subsidi
adalah perlu demi mengurangkan jurang defisit yang sebenarnya akibat
dari keborosan selama ini. Akan tetapi apa yang mereka cuba lakukan
hanya mengelak dari persoalan sebenar isu subsidi iaitu harga yang
tidak munasabah buat Janakuasa Bebas, kebanyakannya milik kroni.

Lebih menyedihkan, RM 126 juta yang berjaya dijimatkan dari penarikan
balik subsidi gula sebanyak 20 sen pada 16hb Julai lalu itu lebih
kecil jumlahnya jika hendak dibandingkan dengan bayaran kepada PEMANDU
sebagaimana yang dilaporkan Malaysiakini (pada 3hb Disember 2010). Di
mana letaknya keabsahan moral kerajaan memerintah ini yang mengambil
RM 126juta dari rakyat terbanyak demi untuk membayar RM 66 juta kepada
penasihat yang membantu menubuhkan sebuah unit kerajaan dan RM 65 juta
pula buat keseluruhan operasi PEMANDU untuk tahun 2010.

Pastinya saya mendengar pengumuman berkaitan dengan Model Ekonomi Baru
dengan rasa penuh curiga. Barisan Nasional akan cuba sedaya upaya
untuk mengelirukan rakyat dengan segala macam pengumuman kononnya demi
kebaikan sektor awam, namun pada masa yang sama boros membayar mereka
yang berkhidmat dalam PEMANDU dengan bayaran yang mampu menyaingi
sektor swasta.

Dokumen Model Ekonomi Baru menumpu mempromosi liberalisasi dan
pembatalan kawal selia, akan tetapi pada masa yang sama memberi lesen
kepada YTL untuk menjayakan projek 700MHz tanpa tender terbuka. Berita
ini pastinya mendapat cemuhan awam dan kalangan mereka dari industri
telekomunikasi.

Pastinya wujud corak ketidaktuntasan di antara pengumuman yang dibuat
dan pelaksanaan oleh pemerintah. Ini tidaklah mengejutkan kerana kita
sedar pemerintah kini taksub untuk mencipta ilusi indah hasil dari
bantuan firma perhubungan awam, yang mana upahnya dibayar dari dana
awam. Bagi mereka yang paling mustahak adalah untuk terus kekal
berkuasa.

Justeru Pakatan Rakyat bersama dengan rakyat keseluruhannya
bertanggungjawab untuk terus memerhati dan memastikan pemerintah
membuat keputusan demi kemaslahatan rakyat serta negara. Kita tidak
boleh gagal, kerana akibatnya ialah harga minyak RM 2.10 seliter dalam
masa setahun lagi.

YB DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM
KETUA PEMBANGKANG