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Friday, June 3, 2011

Perception 03/06/2011

X-marks and chains for suspects rile rights groups

(Malaysiakini) A recent vice raid in Penang sparked another bout of controversy over police conduct as civil society groups decry the way 30 foreign women were chained up and marked with pens after they were detained for alleged prostitution.

penang gro raid 030611 chainIn the raid conducted at a high-class nightclub at a shopping mall in Pulau Tikus last night, eight local men and 30 foreign women - 29 Chinese and one from Vietnam - were arrested by a team of 19 police officers from Bukit Aman.

According to the Chinese language media, the raid was carried out after the officers spent a week going undercover at the club, which is believed to be well-known among locals.

Chinese newspapers however splashed photos of the detained women, showing them chained up in a group and with various markings on their bodies, including an X mark on the forehead of one of those detained.

In previous raids, Penang police normally put an identification mark on the hand of those detained, but the raid last night was conducted by federal police from Bukit Aman.
penang gro raid 030611 news clippingBar Council Human Rights Committee chairperson Andrew Khoo slammed the police for abusing their standard operating procedures (SOP) and at the same time committing a gross violation of human rights.

He said the police's actions are in clear violation of the rights of arrested persons, and will only alienate the public further.

“You do not physically mark them ... you can detain them but you cannot mark them,” he said when contacted.

Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez was equally shocked when told of the pictures of the women being chained and marked, stressing that it is unfair to immediately assume that they were guilty of anything.

'Victimising the victims'

“I doubt this is standard procedure and if it is, the police must reveal that (it is). There must be an investigation into this to find out why the police acted as such.

“They may very well be victims of human trafficking... here you have a situation where they are victimising the victims,” she said.

penang gro raid 030611 chainLawyers for Liberty's Faidah Nadwa Fikri branded the chaining and marking of the women as “very unusual and inhumane”, stressing that the women are merely suspects and have not even been convicted of any crime.

She pointed out however that this is a symptom of a systemic disdain for humanitarian issues in Malaysian society, where the mere act of getting arrested would put a person in a bad light.

penang gro raid 030611 marks on chest“This is a cultural problem, and a problem of (not) understanding what exactly is rule of law.

“I see when people are arrested and brought into court, some are not even wearing slippers... this reflects how we treat people,” she said.

Irene took a similar line, but focussed on the need to stamp out the deeply-ingrained perception that women are the cause of vice.

“We have to address how morality is used to judge women... the system is fundamentally wrong,” she said, adding that Tenaganita will follow-up on this issue.

System needed to 'police the police'

Khoo said the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC) - set up to replace the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) - is ill-equipped to manage the countless claims of police abuse. 

penang gro raid 030611 chainHe noted that this leaves the public no choice but to continue to lodge their complaints directly with the police themselves, with little indication of a solution to the issue.

“But the complaints must keep coming because only by the loudness of the complaints can this issue be heard.”

Khoo added that the authorities must have a systematic way of dealing with police abuse, which he said make up the bulk of complaints against enforcement agencies, while at the same time increasing human rights sensitivity training for the men in blue.

Brain drain and migration, so who’s left to save Malaysia? — Yee Ziherng

JUNE 2 — My name is Yee Ziherng and I am a Malaysian. I stand firmly on the ground that I am a Malaysian first, Chinese second. So there are no debatable issues about races and religion here.
I have been gravely disheartened by the recent deluge of stories of Malaysians migrating. More and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of supporting the move while enumerating lists of alleged flaws and problems facing those who choose to remain, all the while without providing viable solutions to the problem.
I am not against people who work abroad; far from it, in fact, I admire them for working far away from their family in alien countries, earning in different currencies and, hopefully accumulating knowledge acquired abroad to contribute back to our country.
So what is the problem?
It would be very convenient if we were blessed with complete equality (in terms of education, work and business opportunities, etc). Convenient, but no more than a utopian dream. Race is not the question, nor the answer; how can it be, when emigrants consist of Malaysians of all races and faiths?
People leave for various reasons: be it due to low pay, rising inflation, poor governance at the helm, lack of structure and initiative to retain, attract, or nurture talents, flaws in the education system, or even because they feel that they or their talents would be better appreciated elsewhere.
Those who studied or worked abroad are being asked to remain abroad by their parents; peers complain that their salaries just about make ends meet; and every day we see new lows as politicians bicker about anything and everything except the economy and pressing social issues.
So after 54 years, the problem still boils back down to the issue of “equality, education, standard of living and, not to forget, dirty politics.”
Why has the situation kept its unsatisfactory status quo?
Simple, we only complain!
How many of us have actually tried to change? I am certainly not expecting Malaysians to think of “changing” as an act of running around the streets shouting (and later being hit by tear gas and water cannons). Change comes in many forms, and can be as simple as registering yourself as a voter. We have no right to complain if we don’t even bother exercising our basic rights as a Malaysian.
Here are some popular sentences that you might have heard before: “It doesn’t make a difference, so why vote?” “I will return to Malaysia when things get better.” or “I will be back when the country starts to appreciate me.” Sounds familiar?
Let me get things straight, change doesn’t happen overnight! You can’t expect things to be great and wonderful the next day when you just fold their hands and sit back. We should also stop blaming the system, the government and the country — basically everyone else but “us” — while enjoying perceived “equality” overseas.
We have people constantly blaming the politicians for failing to change, but the fundamental thing is, change actually starts within us, politicians are just a medium to represent the voices of the people.
Reasons to stay
It’s a truism that nothing will change for the better while we rest on our laurels: What matters is our initiative to work for it.
I too have friends who refuse to come back after graduating from foreign universities. They’ve seen the wider world, and are afraid of being ill-treated if they return, moreover they received no discouragement for their plans to pursue their careers overseas.
As I’ve mentioned, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not working in Malaysia, or even being an “ex-Malaysian”, but surely for every person who chooses to chase their overseas dreams, there is one who can’t, for financial or social reasons.
This latter group of people have no choice but to stay in the country and face the problems head-on, participating in the change they wish to see, while those who supposedly have a more worldly mentality and have had the advantage of a broader, wider education have rushed on ahead to allegedly greener pastures with nary a glance back.
Does the phrase ‘“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” by John F. Kennedy ring a bell? Most of us have directly or indirectly taken something from Malaysia — at the very least it shaped us into who we are today.
So why can’t we temporarily set aside our personal interests and fulfil our duty as a Malaysian? Of course if it critically concerns a person’s survival if he continues to stay in Malaysia then leaving might be justifiable. But how many of us leave because eking a living in Malaysia is no longer a viable option?
I am certainly not a jingoistic type of a Malaysian, but I will proudly declare that I am Malaysian. For this is the place I grew up in, this is home.
Trust me, Malaysia has not “gone to the dogs” yet, nor is it “doomed to fail” — there is huge potential for this country we love so long as we all do our part. We stay and we fight not only for ourselves, but also for a better future for future generations.
The question remains: “If all the Malaysians who are capable of contributing/changing the country left, who is left to save Malaysia?”
* We asked readers to tell us in their own words why they stayed in Malaysia... instead of migrating. This is one of the stories.

Historians call history textbooks stumbling block to unity

PETALING JAYA, June 3 — Inaccurate and biased accounts of Malaysian history in secondary school textbooks have become a serious issue and will get in the way of uniting Malaysians, historians said last night.
The SPM History Textbook forum at Universiti Malaya here, organised by the MIC Youth, had historians Prof Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi and Datuk M. Thambirajah as panel members, with about 50 others in attendance.
“The syllabus being used today is good, but for a different purpose. This is only a fraction of what a syllabus should be,” Thambirajah said.
He explained how Malaysian history textbooks had evolved to what are being used today while Khoo, an emeritus professor in the History Department of UM, shared a lengthy presentation of interesting facts on Malaysian history, and how a lot of it was wrongly taught to students.
Ranjit (picture), a history textbook author up to 1996, said a good history textbook should be generally objective, well-balanced, devoid of value judgments, and should promote critical thinking among students.
He pointed out the shortcomings of the textbooks used as being too Islamic and Malay-centric, contained half-truths, had numerous factual errors and contradiction, politically-motivated, and contained value judgments.
He said all 17 writers of the Form 1 to Form 5 history textbooks came from one ethnic group, the first time it has happened.
Ranjit is also part of “A Truly Malaysian History” campaign which took root on May 15, where a group of scholars and non-governmental organisations are pushing for greater accuracy in history textbooks for secondary school students.
He is sometimes confused with Prof Dr Ranjit Singh from Universiti Utara Malaysia’s College of Law, Government and International Studies, who sits on the special government committee to study the history curriculum and textbooks for secondary school, and who also happens to be his brother-in-law.
The committee, whose members were appointed on May 3, is headed Malaysian Historical Society chairman Datuk Omar Mohd Hashim while the dean of Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Administrative Sciences and Policy Studies Faculty, Datin Paduka Prof Dr Ramlah Adam, who is also a Perkasa leadership council member, is the deputy chairperson.
Khoo, who also sits on the same committee, said it was easy to point fingers on how the textbooks have come to what they are today but it will be a challenge to correct the problem and teach the younger generation a more accurate version of Malaysian history.
“Our job today is not to criticise but to bring people together,” he said.
MIC Youth secretary C. Sivarrajah told reporters that the movement will collate the points raised by the panel members yesterday and submit them as a memorandum to Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin next week.
“The shortcomings in history textbooks are a very serious issue and have to be seen as a stumbling block to 1 Malaysia. They have to be corrected soon because there are a lot of facts which were manipulated, and not explained in a truthful manner.
“I hope other parties do not politicise this issue. This has to be solved academically, this involves an academic solution. So I think it is best that the ministry and the panel members chosen be more transparent in balancing the content of history textbooks,” he said.

Hyderabad couple harassed for 'adopting' a Muslim girl

Hyderabad:  Papalal is a painter from Hyderabad and for almost four years, his family has been facing harassment.

Reason? Papalal found a little girl at the blast site near Gokul chat centre in Hyderabad in August 2007 and brought her home.

As no one came to claim the child, Papalal and his wife have been taking care of her as their own eldest daughter, even after they realised that she was probably born to Muslim parents.

"Only after she came to our home, I became pregnant. Even if I haven't given birth to her, she will always be my eldest daughter,'' says Sonia's foster mother Jayshree.

Love above religion, however, was not acceptable to all. Both fundamentalist Muslim and Hindu groups objected to a Muslim child being raised by a Hindu couple.

"They want us to give the child away to an orphanage. Which religious text has said something like this? Hindu or Muslim makes no difference to us. We will never give her away,'' says Papalal.

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered the local police to ensure the family's safety but social harassment and threats have continued.

A 3-member advocate commission appointed by the SHRC has directed that the child should either be legally adopted or handed over to the child welfare department. For Papalal, this is not a choice he needs to think about. He already considers Sonia as his daughter and will soon legally adopt her.

Reprieve for demolition of longhouses

Petaling Jaya City Council has assured the residents that their houses will not be torn down and there will be further talks with the residents
PETALING JAYA: The developer in dispute with the longhouse residents in PJS 1 had given a assurance that it would not demolish the longhouses belonging to two residents there.

Selangor state executive councillor Iskandar Abdul Samad made the announcement after a four-hour meeting yesterday with representatives from the developer, Peter Brickworks Sdn Bhd, and the Petaling Jaya City Hall (MBPJ) at the Selangor state government office.

However, the announcement did not go down well with the residents as the developer merely gave a verbal assurance.

“We waited at the office from 2pm, hoping that we will be allowed to take part in the discussion but that never happened,” said the residents’ action committee chairman M Sugumaran.

The 27 families residing at the longhouses in PJS 1 were moved by the developer to the area after promising to build a low-cost flat for them.

On May 23, two out of the 27 families residing at the longhouses in PJS 1 received eviction orders from the developer calling them to vacate their homes by May 30.

However, the residents refused to budge as the developer had yet to build the flats as promised although they have been paying instalments to the bank since 2003.

The eviction was postponed after MBPJ issued a stop-work order against Peter Brickworks in a move to compel the latter to iron out the issues with the residents.

Sugumaran said that the residents were now afraid that the developer might not inform the court bailiff of the latest development, who had promised to enforce the eviction order at 12 noon today.
The residents had since lodged a police report on the matter.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) treasurer A Sivarajan, who was present with the residents, said that Iskandar informed them that there would be a follow-up meeting with Peter Brickworks on Monday to deliberate the matter further.

On why the residents were not allowed to participate in the talks, Sivarajan said he was unsure.
“For now, we hope that the developer will convey the message to the bailiff in order to stop the demolition,” he said.

MIC lips sealed over the Interlok issue

The National Interlok Action Team wants to know why the MIC is so silent over the issue that has affected the Indian community.
KUALA LUMPUR: National Interlok Action Team (NIAT) chief Thasleem Mohd Ibrahim is wondering why the MIC is so silent over an issue that is close to the Indian community – the Interlok novel.

Thasleem said MIC president G Palanivel once wanted the education ministry to withdraw the textbook from school syllabus, but now he has not uttered a word about the issue.

He questioned why the MIC is still staying silent after Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has shown his reluctance to withdraw the novel from the syllabus.
Thasleem said MIC should make a stand on the Interlok issue, adding that Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, was using the Interlok for his own ends.

“Muhyiddin has his own ambition as he wants to be the next prime minister. So, he is using Interlok to champion the Malays and at the same time make Najib look bad in the eyes of the Indian community,” he said.

The Interlok novel became controversial after Indian groups, including MIC, claimed that the author had portrayed the community in a negative light, especially with the use of the term “pariah”.
Following this, the education ministry agreed to amend the book, and an eight-member panel was set up to make recommendations.

Recently, FMT received several complaints that the Gombak education district had used the “un-edited” Interlok book during the mid-term examination despite the assurance from Muhyiddin that the novel would not be used until amendments were made.

Inquest into death of Customs man

The New Straits Times
by Dharshini Balan and Farrah Naz Karim

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have recommended that an inquest be held to determine the circumstances leading to the death of Selangor Customs assistant director Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed.

The decision to file for an inquest was agreed to by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail after studying the investigation papers submitted by the Kuala Lumpur police.

“I have advised them (police) to file a case at the magistrate’s court for an inquest.

“When the cause of death cannot be determined, an inquest or an open inquiry has to be held,” Gani said.

The lawyer representing Ahmad Sarbaini’s family, Ghazali Mohd Ramli, refused to comment on this latest development, saying he has yet to receive anything official from the police.

Ghazali said he only found out about the police recommendation on an online news portal.

Ahmad Sarbaini, 56, was found dead on the first floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission office in Jalan Cochrane here on April 6.

He was among 62 Customs officers detained earlier by the MACC in a graft probe involving losses of up to RM2.2 billion in under-declared taxes. The Customs officers were mainly investigated for graft and money laundering.

Ahmad Sarbaini was released on bail but returned to the MACC office on April 6 allegedly to meet the investigating officer in his case.

Hours after his body was found, MACC investigations director Datuk Mustafar Ali had said that Ahmad Sarbaini came on a motorcycle at 8.26am. He allegedly came of his own accord.

Mustafar had told reporters that Ahmad Sarbaini waited in the lobby for about an hour before an officer escorted him to the investigating officer’s room on the third floor.

The officerwaited with him for almost an hour before he left Ahmad Sarbaini alone for a few minutes to look for the investigating officer. When he returned, the Customs officerwas missing.

He was later found sprawled on the badminton court on the first floor.

Police had classified the case as a sudden death as it was believed that he had jumped to his death.

Ahmad Sarbaini’s family and friends, however, refused to believe he had committed suicide as he was said to be a religious man.

One of his colleagues even revealed that he played tennis with Ahmad Sarbaini the day before he died and that he had not shown any signs of being suicidal.

Last month, his family lawyers submitted new evidence to the police which they believed could clear Ahmad Sarbaini’s name in the graft investigation and suspicions that he had committed suicide.

Lawyer Ghazali had denied that Ahmad Sarbani was involved in money laundering as per the allegations against him.

Billion of our money been waste by Bn

Why pay the IPP so much? The biggest thorn in TNB is the high IPP capacity payment estimated to exceed RM11b for the financial year. With Jimah power plant to go on stream this year, TNB could incur an additional RM500m to RM1b IPP payment. This is generally viewed as excessive given TNB current reserve margin is at 47%. The big question is, why pay extravagantly for something you don’t need?

BAN LIVE EXPORT of Australian cattle

Perkasa: Respect Malay rights, then talk national unity

National unity can only be forged if all Malaysians respected the special privileges accorded to the Malays, says the Malay rights group
PETALING JAYA: Only when the special privileges accorded to the Malays is respected by all races can national unity be forged, said Malay extremist group Perkasa.

Its secretary-general, Syed Hassan Syed Ali, disputed MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek’s call yesterday to think as Malaysians first to work together to maintain a peaceful nation.

He said it was not wrong for Perkasa to voice out issues affecting the Malay community.

“Even other races vent out on issues affecting their respective communities,” said Syed Hassan.
The English daily, The Star, quoted Chua as urging Malaysians to stop identifying themselves with the racial group they belonged to and accept the multi-racial reality of the country.

Syed Hassan said national unity could only be forged if all Malaysians respected the special privileges accorded to the Malays under the Federal Constitution.

“We respect anyone who identifies himself as a Malaysian but we will continue voicing out for the Malays as long as we are neglected,” said Syed Hassan.

On whether Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties such as Umno should the spearhead the unity call by turning itself into a multi-racial party, Syed Hassan said Malaysians were still not ready for it.
“Even when DAP calls itself a multi-racial party, who calls the shots? Do the Malays get equal representation in the party?

“However, BN itself is multi-racial as it has all the races in the coalition,” he said.

Umno MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan echoed Chua’s sentiments but pointed out that not everyone who fights for their own race were racists.

“Umno is the protector of the Malays and we are not shy about it. However, that doesn’t make us racists,” said the Kota Belud MP.

‘Respect the nation’s history’

He said that it all boiled down to how people interpreted what being Malaysian is all about.
“For me, a Malaysian is one who adheres to the Federal Constitution, knows our historical background and respects the understanding that allowed the formation of our country,” said Rahman.

Citing an example, Rahman said it was all right for a citizen to think as a Malaysian and a Bumiputera at the same time.

“I don’t see a problem in that as long as you don’t discriminate against other races,” he said.

On whether Umno should be turned into a multi-racial party, Rahman said it was unneccesary to do so as ultimately it’s BN that runs the government, not Umno alone.

“Malaysia is governed by BN which has Malays, Chinese, Indians, Iban, Melanau and so forth. People have forgotten this,” said Rahman.

MIC publicity chief S Vell Paari said the time would come when political parties would have to  transform itself to become multi-racial.

On whether MIC would allow other races to join the party, he said the decision could only be made by the party’s central working committee.

“Personally, I believe that is the direction we should be heading,” said Vell Paari.

Indian voters still a potent force

In some constituencies, Indian voters will be the deciding factor and a third force has emerged to woo them.
PETALING JAYA: The Indian voters were a force to be reckoned with in the last general election. And for the coming election, all political parties are bent on wooing Indian voters.

At the last count, nine political parties from both sides of the divide and civil rights movement, want to contest in 64 parliamentary seats.

The political parties feel that these constituencies have substantial Indian voters to swing the results their way.
Some political pundits feel that there are too many Indian parties chasing a limited number of seats and in the end they may cancel each other out.

Barisan Nasional (BN) will have 10 parliamentary seats reserved for Indians where MIC will take nine and PPP one.

MIC, a traditionally Indian-based party aligned with Umno and its BN partner since 1955, suffered its worst defeat in the last election where it lost six of the nine parliamentary seats it contested.

The party was further humiliated when president S Samy Vellu, deputy president, a vice-president, Youth chief and women chief all failed to retain their seats.

They won back some measure of support in the Hulu Selangor by-election where P Kamalanathan won against PKR’s Zaid Ibrahim.

‘Sure’ seats

MIC also helped BN win the by-elections in Tenang, Bagan Pinang, and Merlimau when the Indian voters swung back to MIC.

But all is not well in the Indian communiuty. The MIC is unhappy with the government’s treatment of the community in not solving the Interlok row and with Indian top students being sidelined when it came to getting Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships.

The party’s saving grace might be Umno. Rather than see its Indian-based component party being taken to the cleaners again, Umno will give MIC “sure” seats.

Another Indian-based party, PPP, is eyeing the safe seat of Cameron Highlands. Party president M Kayveas, who was defeated in Taiping by DAP candidate Nga Kor Ming, wants the highland seat. But the seat is now held by MIC vice-president SK Devamany.

Rather than ruffle feathers, BN will swap Grik , Taiping and Cameron Highlands seats among Gerakan, PPP and MIC.

The Malaysian Makkal SakthiParty (MMSP) is keen on another Indian seat – Sungai Siput. And since it is aligned to BN, it hopes big brother will offer them the seat.

Malaysian Indian United Party (MIUP) chaired by Anwar Ibrahim former tennis partner S Nallkaruppan is also looking at a parliamentary constituency.

Pakatan Rakyat’s Indian leaders feel thay have a chance in contesting 17 parliamentary seats. It is learnt that PKR Indian leaders are eyeing seven parliamentary seats , the DAP is looking at eight  and Parti Sosialist Malaysia (PSM) wants two seats.

‘Loose understanding’

There is a loose understanding within Pakatan that the Indian leaders will be offered 15 to 16 seats.
The spoiler for the Indian votes will be the minority Indian parties called the “third force”.

Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) forms part of the third force. According to a reliable source, MCLM held a “secret” meeting with several parties to form third force if Pakatan refused to recgonise the third force.

MCLM itself is going to put at least 7 to 10 Indian candidates nationwide, who will stand as independents .The Human Rights Party (HRP) is also looking at 15 parliamentary seats.

At the same time, Malaysian People’s Welfare Party (Kita) is also preparing to contest in the
coming election.

“We will stand in at least five Indian majority constituencies,” said a Selangor local leader.
In another development, a group of Indian NGOs also want to contest in five parliamentary seats.

There are also a few politicians and businessmen who intend to compete as independents
A check by FMT revealed that there might be at least three-cornered fights in Tapah, Cameron Highlands, Sungai Siput, Klang, Kapar, Subang and Hulu Selangor where traditionally all the seats belonged to MIC.

WIKILEAKS: Power struggles in Perak

The BN now has firm control of Perak and is working to regain some of its lost influence among voters, having allocated resources into projects to win back support of the people. With the Chinese vote firmly supporting the opposition, the deciding votes in any future election rest with the ethnic Malays, not because they hold a majority among the populace (they represent just over 50%), but because their support is most split between the ruling coalition and the opposition.
Raja Petra Kamarudin

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/18/2020


Classified By: Political Counselor Brian D. McFeeters for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary and Comment
1. (SBU) Poloff and Pol Specialist visited the politically turbulent state of Perak from February 1-3.  Perak is one of five states won by the opposition People's Alliance (PR) coalition in the March 2008 general elections, but through political defections in February 2009 it subsequently reverted back to authority of Malaysia's ruling National Front (BN) coalition (refs A and B), and is firmly under BN control after a February 9, 2010 Federal Court decision affirming the BN Chief Minister (ref C). 
Perak is a microcosm of Malaysia's ethnic diversity with party affiliation drawn clearly along ethnic and religious lines. Ethnic Malays are split between the BN's dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party and the opposition's People's Justice Party (PKR) and Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), while nearly all ethnic Chinese and a slight majority of ethnic Indians support the opposition PR over the BN, according to a February 5 Merdeka Center poll.
2. (C) Comment:  Events in Perak are significant for two reasons.  First, for the past year it has been ground zero for the fight between the two political coalitions.  Perak is the only state that had an active fight over control of the state for the past 12 months, so the issues there reflect national sentiment.  Second, the fight and ultimate victory by the BN in Perak was a successful political power play both in terms of brute and refined power, reminding us that of the two coalitions, only the BN has the clout, money, and ability to manipulate the government system (election commission, courts) to muscle its way to power. 
The BN now has firm control of Perak and is working to regain some of its lost influence among voters, having allocated resources into projects to win back support of the people.  With the Chinese vote firmly supporting the opposition, the deciding votes in any future election rest with the ethnic Malays, not because they hold a majority among the populace (they represent just over 50%), but because their support is most split between the ruling coalition and the opposition.  That said, while the opposition PR is united in its criticism of the ruling BN coalition, they remain somewhat fragmented both within their coalition, and within their component parties.  End Summary and Comment.
Setting the Scene: Political Background
3. (SBU) Perak had been a bastion of the ruling BN coalition since Malaysia's independence in 1957 until the March 2008 general election, when the opposition PR coalition stunned the BN and took control of the state government by winning 31 of 59 state assembly seats. 
Within the PR, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) won 18 seats; the People's Justice Party (PKR) won 7 seats; and the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) won 5 seats.  Although the DAP earned more seats than their coalition partners combined, the position of Chief Minister went to PAS assemblyman Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, because the Perak state constitution stipulates that only a Muslim can hold the position of Chief Minister (CM).
On the BN side, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) won 27 of their 28 seats while the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) took the remaining seat.  Two other BN partners, the Malaysian Peoples Movement Party (Gerakan) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), were all but rendered obsolete as neither won a single contested seat. 
The DAP's dominance came as a result of ethnic Chinese and Indian discontent with the MCA, Gerakan, and MIC, who traditionally have represented their interests within the BN coalition.  In February 2009, after 11 months in power, the PR state government lost its majority in the state assembly following the defection of three PR state assembly members to become independents friendly to the BN. 
The net change in 3 seats left the BN with the majority of seats and resulted in a protracted controversy when the Sultan of Perak replaced PR Chief Minister Nizar (equivalent to a governor of a U.S. state) with BN's Zambry.  The Federal Court ruled on February 9 that the change of chief minister was legal (ref C).
Insights from Perak Politicians
4. (C) Poloff and Pol Specialist visited Perak from February 1-3, and met with representatives from every major political party in peninsular Malaysia:  from the ruling National Front (BN) coalition, the coalition-leading United National Malays Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Gerakan, and the Malaysian Indian Coalition (MIC); from the opposition People's Alliance (PR), politicians from the People's Justice Party (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS). 
In a February 1 meeting with PAS Perak committee members at their headquarters, including former Perak Chief Minister (CM) Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin and Perak PAS Chief Ustaz Abu Bakar Hussain, Nizar called the policies implemented by the PR government from March 2008 thru February 2009 "successful and people friendly."  He noted that the current BN government has copied and implemented many of the PR's government policies while claiming full credit for them. 
DAP MP Fong Po Kuan later told Poloff that she didn't mind if the BN claimed credit for these policies, stating that it was more important that they were implemented, and that "they clearly benefitted the people." 
Nizar also claimed that during his term of office, the PR state government had managed to increase revenues by cutting waste and promoting open tenders.  In the past the BN government only extended "negotiated tenders to their cronies."
5. (SBU) In a brief February 1 meeting, current Chief Minister Zambry (UMNO), exuded confidence in his performance during his first year.  He saw himself as the rightful Chief Minister because "it is clearly the will of the people."
Zambry opined that the BN in Perak has acted in a more professional and competent manner than the PR did when they were in power.  Noted Zambry: "We were a responsible opposition for eleven months," but when the opposition lost the majority, they "refused to abide by democratic principles."  
Zambry commented that in the 12 months since the BN took back control of Perak, the BN has been working very hard to gain the confidence of the people, noting that the BN had embarked on "people friendly policies" -- the same term Nizar used -- by focusing on poverty eradication irrespective of race and a good economic development policy.
Perak State Secretary Dr. Abdul Rahim Hashim reiterated that the two policies were the main thrust of the BN government policies in the state.  Zambry said the results of the BN were showing, noting that when compared to opposition gatherings, "there is marked increase in support for BN gatherings" and that he has received feedback that "the people are generally happy with the BN state government."
6. (C) On February 2, Chang Ko Youn, the state chief and national deputy president for the marginalized Gerakan party, admitted that the Chinese voters "deserted the BN by droves" in the last general election. 
(Note: Gerakan went from 10 to 2 MP seats in the March 2008 general elections, and from 4 to 0 seats in the Perak state assembly.  End Note.) 
He cited UMNO's "racist policies" as one cause, adding that the Chinese media were "unfriendly" towards BN.  Chang pointed out that, unlike the government-influenced mainstream media, the Chinese newspapers are more independent and at times favor the opposition rather than BN parties.  The veteran leader said it would be difficult for BN to win over the Chinese voters in the next general election. 
7. (C) Dr. Mah Hang Soon, the MCA state youth chief and sole non-UMNO state assemblyman for the BN, was a bit more optimistic.  Mah noted that the BN is "now more aware of the Chinese problem" and is "working on overcoming it."  He cited the case of Chinese farmers, who have farmed on state land for decades, who were recently given land titles.  The state government has also started funding the nine independent Chinese schools in the state, whereas in the past the BN state government had completely ignored the plight of independent Chinese schools.  Mah opined that the previous PR government only "made promises" but the BN state government "is now delivering" on them.
Dr. Mah also noted that the Chinese community was especially concerned about the ongoing inquest into the July 2009 death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock while under investigation, opining that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) needs to get to the bottom of this soon, even if they themselves are to blame.
8. (C) MIC Perak state secretary and new Perak state Speaker R. Ganesan echoed Mah's views, claiming that the 12-month old BN government has enacted numerous polices for the benefit of non-Malays.  Ganeson proudly stated that for the first time the state government has allocated funding for Hindu temples.
(Note: The previous PR government started the policy of allocating funds to non-Islamic religious institutions, but it is the BN who is seeing this through.  End Note.) 
Ganesan added that he could see the Indians returning to the BN based on the number of people attending BN-sponsored meetings and political rallies.
Both Sides at Risk as Snap Elections too Risky to Consider
9. (SBU) Prior to the February 9 court decision, both Zambry and Nizar publicly claimed that they had enough support from voters to win any snap election, fueling speculation that regardless of how the decision panned out, the legitimized Chief Minister would call for elections and end the controversy once and for all.  Zambry told Poloff on February 1 that if snap elections were held, he was confident the BN would win 34 out of 59 seats in the state assembly, citing discontent with PKR and PAS among voters. 
When asked by Poloff if he would call for snap elections should he win the February 9 decision, Zambry said he would not dissolve the state assembly, saying that "the Perak BN state government does not operate based on the dictates of the opposition."
Nizar, in turn, countered that he had the support of 80% of the Chinese and Indian vote, and at least 50% of the ethnic Malay vote, challenging Zambry that the only way to prove his claim would be to call for a snap election in Perak.
Nizar told Poloff that even with fresh elections, there is no guarantee that the PR would win a majority of seats to form a government.  Nizar stated that the BN has managed to "poison the minds of the rural Malays" by convincing them that he was "a lackey of the DAP" and "had committed treason by defying the Sultan" after the defections.  PAS State Treasurer Abdul Rahim Ariff concurred with Nizar's view, adding that if elections were held today the Malay votes would split evenly between UMNO and PAS, unlike in March 2008 when there was clear swing of Malay votes towards PAS and PKR.
10. (SBU) State senior UMNO Cabinet Minister Ramly Zahari concurred with the Chief Minister's views that the BN has no reason to dissolve the state assembly.  He stated that the opposition is the one who "started the game" by wooing BN Members of Parliament and state assembly to cross the floor. As such the veteran state UMNO leader added that when the BN managed to outflank PR, "the opposition now wants to rewrite the rules." 
(Note: Ramly is referring to an UMNO assemblyman who crossed over to the PR in January 2009.  A few days after the crossover, he returned to the BN and was joined by the three ex-PR assemblyman who claimed to be BN-friendly independents.  The opposition believes that the initial crossover was orchestrated by UMNO to prepare the ground for the three others to jump to the BN side. End Note.)
11. (SBU) DAP Perak State Chief Ngeh Khoo Ham and DAP State Secretary Nga Kor Ming (who are first cousins) were optimistic on February 2 that magic of March 2008 would continue to prevail in Perak if snap elections were held.
While admitting that there is a slight shift in Malay support in favor of the BN, Ngeh stated that a majority of urban Malays and most of the Chinese and Indians would vote for a PR coalition party.
After the Ruling: What's Next for PR and BN?
12. (C) PKR Vice President and MP in Perak Lee Boon Chye told Poloff on February 2 that despite the setback caused by the BN takeover and subsequent court rulings, the PR is still very popular in Perak.  Lee claimed that "80 percent of Perakians are still behind us." 
Ngeh and Nga (DAP) claim that the opposition has continuously been harping in their numerous political gatherings through out the state that the current state government "is an illegal court appointed entity" and vowed they would continue their disharmonious campaign after the Federal Court ruling of February 9.
However, Nizar announced after the court decision that the opposition would instead cooperate with BN.
13. (C) Zambry said on February 1 that PR leadership in Perak was becoming increasingly desperate.  Decreased numbers and a general lack of enthusiasm at recent opposition rallies showed that people were tired of the PR acting like a sore loser, and were ready to move on.  As a result, claimed Zambry, the PR has embarked on a strategy to smear the image of the BN-led state government. 
He cited two examples of the smear campaign: that he was accused of being denied entry to the US recently for "being involved in terrorist activities," and news reports that investors are shunning Perak since the BN wrested power. 
Zambry is suing the PKR newspaper "Suara Keadilan" for RM 400 million for what he says were libelous claims about his US trip.  He noted that investments have actually increased since the BN took over, claiming that the Perak state government has attracted RM11 billion (about USD 3 billion) in one year.
(Note: Regarding the investments, Nizar and other PR leaders in Perak dispute this figure, claiming that some of the investments came to the state when the PR was in power.  End Note.)  
Zambry expected the opposition to continue with their smear tactics, commenting that "their position is increasingly under threat."
Coalition, Party Infighting Continue to Impact Opposition
14. (C) DAP MP and Vice President Kulasegaran admitted that all is not well with the DAP in Perak.  Kula claimed that the "Ngeh-Nga clan" referring to the cousins, is running the show in Perak.  The veteran DAP leader claimed that the top party leadership is unable to control the two, as they have managed to bring the state DAP machinery completely under their control. 
Kula claimed that due to their dominance, the DAP may face some problems in the future because they are not popular among all the Chinese in the state.  For example, the cousins tried to force out popular DAP MP Fong Po Kuan from running in the 2008 general election in order to replace her with their own crony, but her constituency fiercely resisted this move against the three-term MP, forcing the cousins to back down. 
Poloff raised this topic while meeting Fong for lunch, but she refused to be drawn into a conversation on this issue.
Poll: Voters Split Along Ethnic Lines
15. (U) The independent Merdeka Center announced results of a poll taken of Perak voters on February 5.  Current CM Zambry has an approval rating of 43%, while former CM Nizar has an approval rating of 46%.  Zambry's base of support comes from 2/3 of the ethnic Malays and 1/2 of the Indians; Nizar's support comes from the remaining 1/3 of the Malays, the other 1/2 of the Indians, and nearly all of the Chinese. 
(Note: the ethnic breakdown for Perak's 2 million citizens is approximately 52% Malay, 32% Chinese, 13% Indian, and 3% others.  CM Zambry is an ethnic Indian but is Muslim by religion.  End Note.) 
In addition, 38% of respondents believed Perak is moving in the right direction, up from 31% polled in April 2009, while 44% believed the state was moving in the wrong direction, with distinct differences of opinion when broken down by ethnic lines.

Scorpene Scandal: ‘Show Us Your Passport, Najib’

PKR today called on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to “come clean” on his travels in 2002, following claims of a “mysterious third person” jet-setting with at least one of his known associates in connection with the controversial Scorpene submarine deal.

Party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution said the onus was on Najib to prove he did not have a hand in the negotiations, since as mounting evidence being revealed in the French courts narrows the focus down to the premier himself.

Saifuddin (right) said it has now been established that the estimated RM6.27 billion deal between the Malaysian government and French company DCNS was brokered by Najib’s close associates, including his one-time adviser Abdul Razak Baginda and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) chief Lodin Wok Kamaruddin.

Suaram, he said, had revealed that Razak, along with murdered Mongolian translator Altantuya Shariibuu and an unknown third person, had travelled to Macau in connection with the submarine deal.

“One of them is already dead, one has been charged in court. One more is still alive and could be holding a high position… we don’t know, but we will know when the trial starts,” Saifuddin said at a press conference at the PKR party headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

Suaram revealed last week that a French probe onto the submarine the deal had unveiled that an unknown third person had travelled with Razak and Altantuya in 2002, in connection with the submarine purchase.

However, Suaram did not disclose the places the trio visited, nor did it indicate who the mystery third person could be. Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel said it was “still too early” to determine the individual’s identity. Who’s the mystery Male-Y?

PKR vice-president Tian Chua, who was also present, said Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi may not be the right person to testify on the identity of the mystery “third person”, since Najib was defence minister at the time of the submarine purchase and would therefore be privy to the details at the time.

“I don’t think Zahid was privileged to know the travellers. The then defence minister is in the best position (to identify) this mysterious person… we could call him Male Y if you like,” Tian Chua (left) said, jokingly referring to the Male Y DNA strain highlighted in PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim’s on-going second sodomy trial.

Saifuddin also urged the government to clarify contradictions in its own explanations on the 114 million Euro (RM495.9 million) payout to Perimekar for services rendered.

He said that Amaris, a subsidiary of DCNS, revealed during the probe by the French that the Malaysian government paid out the sum as commission to Perimekar – totally opposite of the government’s announcement in 2006 that Amaris paid the money for Perimekar’s coordination and support services in the deal.

Tian Chua pointed out that the people have every right to know who made the payment to Perimekar and the purpose of the payment, since this aspect of the deal had nothing to do with national security. “This is not a national security issue in terms of the functions of the Scorpene submarines. We are not dealing with the security aspects, we are dealing with the finance part, which is of public interest,” he said.

NEP or meritocracy? — Fazly M. Fauzy

JUNE 1 — The New Economic Policy has often been described as biased to Bumiputeras in terms of education and economic rights given to them under the policy. Critics of the NEP believe that it is crippling Malaysia by rewarding those who they feel to be “undeserving” of these rights because it is not based on merit but instead on their preferential status as Bumiputeras.

I would contend, however, that while meritocracy is a noble ideal in that it rewards those who have truly earned their due but at the same time, it also unfairly undermines those who they have deemed unworthy due to their perceived lack of merit.

This hypothesis that I’m presenting is not something that is radical or new but in fact has been discussed quite extensively in many articles, books and journals. My goal here then is to highlight to those who would suggest that we abolish the NEP in favour of a meritocracy; that in a meritocracy only those who are in position to succeed will always win while those unfortunate will always be left behind and this I feel is an injustice.

The NEP which is essentially an affirmative action policy was initiated in 1970 in order to bridge the wealth gap between the then predominantly rural Malay population and the urban Chinese population. The NEP did succeed in uplifting the economic position of the Malays as evident in the increase in the number of registered Malay professionals and the emergence of the Malay middle-class between 1970 and 1990. While the NEP did succeed in alleviating the status of the Malays by reducing poverty and increasing their earning power, the wealth gap amongst the Malays themselves began to widen.

This paradox was raised by A.H. Roslan, an Associate Professor of Economics at the Universiti Utara Malaysia. In his paper, “Income Inequality, Poverty and Development Policy in Malaysia”

(, Roslan mentions that, “the success of the NEP has resulted in the Malays to become no longer economically homogeneous as before.

There has now emerged for example, a Malay urban working class, a Malay middle (professional) class and also a Malay business (capitalist) class.” Roslan further adds that, “the ethnicity-oriented policy in essence becomes incoherent” because, “for the policy to be coherent there must be a coherence of interests among its members. This implies that the Malays must not be deeply divided — be it socially economically or politically.”

So, if the NEP is no longer coherent because the Malays are no longer homogenous economically, does this mean that it is also irrelevant? To answer this question we now need to address this issue of meritocracy.

The definition of meritocracy in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” It is interesting to note, however, that the term meritocracy which was coined by British sociologist, social activist and politician, Michael Young in his 1958 essay, “The Rise of the Meritocracy: 1870-2033: An Essay on Education and Equality” was not meant to have such a positive connotation.

Young’s intention in this satirical commentary that portrayed a 21st century Britain that put extreme emphasis on one’s intelligence as the marker of success, was to warn that a society that aggressively promotes achievement will result social inequity.

In an article published in the Guardian on 29 Jun 2001 entitled, “Down with Meritocracy” ( Young had said that, “It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.”  With this statement in mind we can now explore if Young’s assertions can be applied to Malaysian society.

Even after 40 years since the inception of the NEP economic disparities still exists amongst the Malays, Indians, Chinese and other ethnic minorities. According to the “The Report: Malaysia 2010” by the Oxford Business Group, between 2004 to 2009, the mean monthly gross household income for Bumiputeras increased by 5.6 per cent from RM2711 to RM3624.

For the Chinese the increase was at 2.5 per cent from RM4437 to RM5011 and for the Indians it was 3 per cent from RM3456 to RM3999. It is also stated in the paper, “Ethnic Heterogeneity in the Malaysian Economy: A Special Reference to the Ethnic Group Participation in Financial Planning Activities” published in the Journal of International Social Research. (

In 2005, the Chinese own nearly 70 per cent of the business complex in Malaysia reflecting the Chinese control over the business establishments around the country. This is regardless of the percentage of Chinese population of around 30 per cent, according to the latest statistics on population described earlier in the article.

The trends persist for other types of commercial buildings and premises. The Chinese, on average own 71.9 per cent of commercial buildings and premises. In comparison, only nearly 12 per cent of them owned by the Bumiputeras regardless of about 60 per cent of the population consist of the Bumiputeras.
The same phenomenon can also be observed to the trends of commercial buildings and premises by the Indians. On average, only 1.5 per cent of them are owned by the Indians although the Indians form eight per cent from the total population.

This implies that in terms of capital owned and wages earned the Chinese are still outpacing not just the Malays but also the Indians and other ethnic minorities. This higher comparative wealth also means that the Chinese can afford a better quality of living in terms of education and housing.

We can attribute the economic success of the Chinese to their business acumen and emphasis on education and hard work but at the same time is it okay to dismiss the Malays as lazy and stupid for not being able to compete?

Since we Malaysians are football fanatics let me try to use the EPL as an example to demonstrate that the bottom team’s failure to rise up the ranks is not due to their lack of endeavour but due to the unfavourable odds that have been stacked against them from the beginning.

It’s no secret that the top teams in the EPL are also the wealthiest in the league. Teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are able to draw in more revenue because they can collect more ticket sales from their larger capacity stadiums compared to the mid-table and lower rung teams. The popularity of these clubs also means that they can attract much more lucrative sponsorship deals and are able to leverage on their merchandising too.

These teams are then able to reinvest their earnings to buy better quality players, hire the best coaching staff and provide much more sophisticated training facilities to continue cementing their position at the top.

Now what about the teams that season after season continue to languish in the mid-table or are fighting for relegation like Everton, Wolves and Blackpool? Are they where they are in the table because they are not as competitive as the teams at the top?

From watching the games we can honestly say that whether you’re at the bottom or the top, the players are out there playing to win. The difference is the top teams are be able to attract the best players like Rooney, Torres and Tevez because they can meet their wage demands but the Evertons, Wolves and Blackpools of this world can’t afford such luxuries.

What this tells us is that teams like Manchester United are successful not just because they play the best football but also because they have the financial resources to keep them at the top. The inability of the mid-table teams to break into the top tier also cannot be blamed on their lack of trying. They train just as hard and play just as hard but at the end of the day the gulf in quality (that money can buy) will continue to assert the status quo.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with meritocracy. A meritocracy will inevitably result in social stratification. The “haves” will continue to dominate the “have-nots” and regardless of how much the “have-nots” tries to catch-up the gap will just grow wider and wider. We don’t have to look very far to see consequences of a meritocratic society than our neighbour in the south, Singapore.

Singapore has often prided itself for being a wholly meritocratic state, but at what cost? In the book, “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger”, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket, Singapore, in terms of income gap between the richest 20 per cent and poorest 20 per cent, was ranked first amongst the 23 rich nations surveyed. These rich nations included the US, UK, Australia, Germany and Japan to name a few.

This issue of income inequality was also raised by Kenneth Paul Tan, an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. Tan had written a paper in the International Political Science Review entitled, “Meritocracy and Elitism in a Global City: Ideological Shifts in Singapore

“ ( and in it alluded to the fact that, “To ordinary Singaporeans, the widening income gap and the conspicuous lifestyles of wealthy and elite Singaporeans as well as the expatriate class of “foreign talent” are making equality of opportunity seem like a naive expectation that can no longer advance beyond mere platitude.”

The inherent problem with meritocracy is that ignores the fact that not everyone is on equal footing. As Tan also mentions in the same paper cited above,

Meritocracy, in trying to “isolate” merit by treating people with fundamentally unequal backgrounds as superficially the same, can be a practice that ignores and even conceals the real advantages and disadvantages that are unevenly distributed to different segments of an inherently unequal society, a practice that in fact perpetuates this fundamental inequality.

In this way, those who are picked by meritocracy as having merit may already have enjoyed unfair advantages from the very beginning, ignored according to the principle of non-discrimination.

This is the point that needs to be remembered by those who would advocate for a meritocratic Malaysia. We can’t ignore the fact that there still exist economic disparities across racial lines and a corrective mechanism is required to reduce this disparity. So to answer my earlier question, is the NEP still relevant despite the fact that the Malays are no longer homogeneous economically? My answer is yes, but with a few qualifications.

To start we need to go back to the original objective of the NEP that is to eradicate poverty amongst all races and remove the identification of race from economic functions. We must remove the association of the NEP with it being a Bumiputera policy. The most crucial part, however, is to ensure that only those who qualify, i.e. those who can’t afford to pay for the education of their children should be able to get scholarships and financial assistance.

With regards to the Bumiputera discount for properties, we can apply an income cap in order to qualify for the discount and open the discount to all Malaysians. The bottom line is we should maintain the NEP but with stricter requirements and enforcement so that those who can afford it shouldn’t benefit from it.
It should also be noted that some concessions have already been made with regards to Bumiputera equity quotas in IPOs.

Whereby a 30 per cent Bumiputera equity stake was required for listing before, today in the event that the 30 per cent allocation is not fully subscribed the company will still be eligible for listing. Also the My First Home scheme that was recently launched is also a step in the right direction to assist first time house-buyers in purchasing a home and this scheme is open to all not just Bumiputeras.

It will take time before we can reach the goals set in the NEP but steps have been taken to diminish the need for affirmative action but until then we must not let this issue divide us.

We need to instil empathy within our multiracial community so that we can help each other to become better rakyat. We should not prey on the weaknesses of others to bring them down but instead help to uplift them.

If the Malays for example lack in business or entrepreneurial skills, why can’t the Chinese businessmen help them to become better?  Why not share with each other so that we can grow together? The same applies to the Malays professionals. Impart the knowledge and experience that you have learnt to train the next generation of Malay professionals.

I would like to conclude with a hadith from “The Book of Muslim Moral and Manners” by Imam Bukhari. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had said that: “A believer will not eat his fill while his neighbour is hungry.” This is the message that we need to carry with us. We must be mindful of the predicaments of others around us and not be too engrossed with our own needs.

* Fazly M. Fauzy reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.