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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'Tear gas gun aimed directly at Anwar'

(Malaysiakini) The police stood prepared with their anti-riot weapons, with one of them aiming his tear gas gun at Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. That's what his bodyguard Fayyadh Afiq saw, and he immediately took action.

As he heard the order to fire, Fayyadh said he pulled Anwar away.

Numbed by high dosages of medication, he said his left cheek, on which a metal gas canister landed when the police fired, has not stopped throbbing.

NONERecalling the incident, he said: “We exited KL Sentral and proceeded marching through the enclosed shelter at the back, where the buses stop.

“Other bodyguards and I were with Anwar and a few other leaders were walking in the front, forming a long column, when I heard a faint sound.

“I am sure it came from an officer using a loudhailer, but with everyone shouting around us, I could hardly hear a thing,” Fayyadh told Malaysiakini.

He then turned towards the riot squad, assembled and ready, and did not need to take a second glance when he spotted the weapon pointed at Anwar.

And then it happened. Fayyadh said he pulled Anwar to the left and immediately felt an excruciating pain as if he was given a heavy blow on his face, followed by a stinging, piercing sensation all over his body from the tear gas.

NONEThe 25-year-old, who sustained a broken cheekbone, added that all he could think about was the safety of his boss as they fled the plumes of tear gas.

“We tried to rush Anwar to safety, we ran towards KL Sentral and that's where he tripped over a pothole and fell.

As they were trapped in the middle, with both exits leading to Jalan Tun Sambanthan sealed off by police, the only way back into the central transit hub was the narrow escalator and staircase, recounted Fayyadh.
Shah Alam MP receives six stitches

After they managed to manoeuvre out of the chaotic situation, he said, they retreated to Anwar's rented suite at Hilton Hotel, located at another corner of the transportation hub.

NONE“Once up in the suite, we wanted to head to the hospital because a few of us were injured from the melee. But the police guarding the hotel entrance refused to let us out,” he said, muttering profanities under his breath.

After approximately an hour, they managed to wriggle through the police on duty and made their way to a nearby private hospital for treatment.

NONEFayyadh underwent surgery yesterday, with a titanium plate inserted to stabilise his face bone.

Also injured was Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad of PAS, who said one of the tear gas canisters fired directly at the crowd hit him on the head.

Khalid, who sustained six stitches on his head, said the riot police at KL Sentral's public bus and airport shuttle route sandwiched him, along with the top leaders of Pakatan and Bersih 2.0, as well as the protesters.

NONE“We stopped when we saw the FRU policemen block our way, and we also noticed the FRU moving in behind us. Without warning, they started shooting tear gas and they were aiming at the demonstrators.

“I turned around to look at the FRU (members) behind us, and suddenly my spectacles flew and there was blood everywhere,” Khalid told a press conference yesterday.

“The doctor who checked me was surprised that the wound was a very clean cut, just like a slice with a knife. This would only happen if tear gas was aimed directly at the people,” Khalid said.

Protesters trapped

These claims were also backed by PKR vice-presidents Nurul Izzah Anwar and N Surendran, who were at the scene and recounted similar descriptions about the police crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally participants.

ipd kl bersih 090711 nurul izzahNurul had said that police trapped the demonstrators within the KL Sentral underpass, on both sides and fired tear gas from both ends.

Aside from Anwar and Khalid, several top Bersih and Pakatan Rakyat leaders were at KL Sentral during the rally on Saturday, including Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan, steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah, PAS president Hadi Awang and DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang.

They had gathered at the KL Sentral vicinity as they were all among the 91 barred from every other key location for protesters to gather, including, Jalan Syed Putra, Jalan Istana, Jalan Bukit Petaling, Jalan Bellamy and the area surrounding Istana Negara leading towards Stadium Merdeka.

Despite heavy surveillance and a complete lockdown in the capital city, ten of thousands traversed the streets, with a large majority in support of Bersih's cause for electoral reform, while a small fraction, made up of Umno Youth members, marched in a counter rally.

NONEBersih 2.0 organisers declared their protest a success, claiming an estimated 50,000 people had marched despite police warnings, and where 1,667 people were arrested.

The government, on the other hand, lauded the rest of Malaysians for not taking part in the street demonstration, and said only 5,000 to 6,000 took part in the Bersih rally.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak rejected the allegations of violence on the part of the police and accused Anwar of masterminding the rally and manipulating rally organisers to bolster his ambition to become prime minister.

“Just hit by a little tear gas ... and his photo and video were on YouTube as though he was beaten up, and landed in the hospital,” Najib had ridiculed at an Umno-Malay NGO gathering at the Putra World Trade Centre on Sunday.

Polis tangkap luar kawasan perintah mahkamah

UN says Bersih clampdown undermines democracy

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The United Nations said late yesterday that the use of tear gas and water cannons by police to disperse the Bersih rally on Saturday undermined the democratic process.

The global body said Malaysia, which sits on the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC), “unduly restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”

Police firing water cannons on Bersih supporters on July 9, 2011. — File pic
“UN human rights experts expressed their dismay at the use of tear gas and water cannons by security authorities against peaceful protestors... reportedly leading to injuries and one death,” its human rights high commissioner said in a statement from Geneva.
Malaysia was elected into the UNHRC last year but has faced criticism over preventive detention laws such as the Internal Security Act and the latest rebuke throws a re-election in 2013 in doubt.

Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that “by declaring the demonstration illegal, sealing off parts of the capital and responding in such a heavy-handed manner against peaceful demonstrators, the government of Malaysia risks undermining the democratic progress in the country.”

However, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has defended the police’s conduct during the rally organised by the electoral reform movement, saying that the police did not engage in any physical contact with Bersih supporters.

Police have also insisted that all those detained on July 9 were well taken care of and properly fed throughout the period of arrest.

Although police said that all 1,700 detained on Saturday were released by the same night, the UN noted that the six PSM members including Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj were not yet released from remand under the Emergency Ordinance.

“Declaring Bersih illegal based on claims that it is trying to topple the government or is a risk to national security and public order — in the absence of any credible evidence to substantiate such claims — is also an unnecessary restriction of civil and political rights,” La Rue said.

Bersih had claimed a turnout of 50,000 for its street demonstration which went ahead without police permission.

The coalition of 62 NGOs decided to take to the streets despite previously accepting Najib’s offer to move the street rally to a stadium after the government refused to allow the gathering to take place in Stadium Merdeka.

This came after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong called on the government a week ago to execute its duties fairly and for it to meet Bersih and discuss the issue of free and fair elections.

Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin had intervened after a police dragnet that had seen over 100 arrests, the raiding of the Bersih secretariat and confiscation of Bersih-related materials in the space of a week.

Bersih rally has called BN’s bluff

For far too long the Malaysians have been cowed into submission by the police and the ruling party. But the July 9 protest has lifted the opposition and the wind of change is likely to blow through the country.
If Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had been a good strategist, or surrounded by people not given to anything more than fawning, he would have donned a yellow T-shirt on July 9 and hijacked the movement for free and fair elections from Bersih 2.0. It’s not the done thing to be seen as opposing free and fair elections.

Alas, it was not to be. The government couldn’t see beyond its nose.

Instead, Najib was persuaded by the red shirts of Umno Youth’s ultra right-wing Patriots to virtually commit political suicide. He has thundered defiance at those calling for change and reform and, like Umno Youth, pledged to defend the present electoral system.

Umno leaders, unlike those in the opposition, don’t seem to need police permits to stage huge instant gatherings of specially-mustered sleepy-eyed and bored civil servants to witness their ranting at the opposition and issuing all manner of dire threats. It has been conservatively estimated that half the civil service are for the opposition.

To add insult to injury, Najib has resurrected a long discredited theory, and obviously intends to keep on harping, that all political problems in the country stem from one man – Anwar Ibrahim.

The perception is that Anwar wants to be prime minister at all costs, meaning “selling out the Malays, the religion and the country” to set up a puppet government of American boot-lickers led by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

No doubt this would come as interesting news to Kelantan prince and Umno veteran, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is tipped to head an opposition government as one-term prime minister, with Anwar as his deputy if the latter manages to stay out of jail.

It was Najib himself who thundered in public not so long ago that he intends to defend Putrajaya “at all costs”, come what may, implying that there was a hook-or-crook strategy at work. One has to only look at Sabah to understand in what direction Umno and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) intends to move to keep Putrajaya away from the opposition alliance, the Pakatan Rakyat.

The BN can only get away with anything to the extent that it is allowed. Unlike in the years past, there are enough activists and cadres in the opposition to ensure that the BN doesn’t get a free ride at their expense, or the people and the country.

The BN’s game plan, come the next general election, is to reduce the opposition to the states of Kelantan and Penang – to give a semblance of free and fair elections in the country – and pull out all the stops to wrest back Selangor and Kedah, while denying the return of Perak to the opposition.

The BN also intends to win back its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Intense propaganda

The consensus on the ground is that the BN will achieve the targets it has set for itself given that the electoral rolls would be even more tainted than usual by the time of the next general election, expected as early as November this year and no later than the middle of next year.

Hence, the Bersih 2.0 rally which did not degenerate, as predicted, into nothing more than clutching at straws in the face of the barrage of intense propaganda from the government.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen after the next general election. But one thing is clear and that is that the opposition has no intention whatsoever of letting the BN install itself in power without a fair and free election.

This would appear to indicate that the opposition, if not Malaysians at large, would take to the streets in their thousands after the next general election to cry foul and force the BN out of office.

It would be an exercise in futility to suggest how the BN can avoid the karmic fate that is in store for it unless the government is willing to eat humble pie and admit that the electoral rolls for the next national polls is more than tainted.

But an about-turn by the powers-that-be goes against the grain, and if Sabah is any indication, it will never happen.

That brings us right back to where we started: the karmic fate that is in store for the BN after the next general election.

If Najib thinks that his precious police would protect him from the collective wrath of the opposition, as they have done in the past, he should think again. The police are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The department has been functioning as if it has become a component of the BN along with the Election Commission, the National Registration Department, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the mainstream media and significant sections of the Judiciary.

Besides, as Tahrir Square in Cairo has proven in the recent past, the police are more than likely to flee with their tails between their legs when the game is up.

Paper tigers

In Egypt, the police were nowhere in evidence as anything up to two million people crowded into Tahrir Square for 18 days to bring the government down. Had the police appeared, they would have been pummelled by the ordinary Egyptians out on the streets. The Egyptian crowd camped out in the streets day and night came down to as few as 200,000 at certain points during the 18-day vigil before going back and forth between that figure and the initial two million.

In Malaysia, all it takes is anything between 20,000 and 200,000 people permanently camped out in the streets of Kuala Lumpur for less than 18 days to drive the final nail into the coffin of Umno and BN.

At 200,000, the crowd in the street would outnumber the police two to one and equal the police and the army combined. The Malaysian authorities are paper tigers when compared with the Mubarak regime which ran Egypt with an iron fist for more than 30 years and won every election with nothing less than 90% of the votes cast.

Kuala Lumpur, like Cairo, is where the scene of all the action would be in any planned protest movement to bring about change and reform.

The Egyptians who ousted Mubarak did not take to the streets anywhere outside Cairo in any significant number. Some crowds were mentioned as gathering in Alexandria and in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, where Mubarak had a seaside palace, but they weren’t a significant factor in the people’s revolution that ushered in a new dawn for Egypt.

Change comes but seldom and when it comes, it’s sudden. This is the moment for the opposition as a historical window of opportunity has opened up for them, one never to be repeated for another 50 years.
Umno and the BN talk about change and reform as well all the time – read the Economic Transformation Programme, among others – but the more things appear to change in the country, the more they remain the same. Bersih 2.0 has called their bluff.

Were cops trying to trap Ambiga’s group?

Police may have had punishment in mind when they shot tear gas into a tunnel.
In at least one of their encounters with Bersih supporters last Saturday, police appeared to have used tear gas to trap and punish instead of to disperse a group of demonstrators.

This happened to be the group led by Bersih leader S Ambiga and opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Abdul Hadi Awang, Tian Chua and Nurul Izzah Anwar.

FMT reporter Zefry Dahalan filed the following first person account.

“I was with some journalists following the group that had Bersih chief Ambiga and the top Pakatan Rakyat leaders in the front line. They marched from KL Hilton into the KL Sentral station and went down the narrow staircase that leads to the tunnel that links with Jalan Tun Sambanthan.

When they had almost reached the end of the tunnel, police from the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) suddenly released tear gas directly into the group. A canister hit Anwar’s bodyguard (photo, below), injuring his left cheek.

There was pandemonium. It was at this point that Ambiga, Abdul Hadi and Tian Chua were arrested.

The entire group ran back into the tunnel. And then the FRU fired again. The fumes filled the closed area.

Everyone seemed to be out of breath as they ran, more for air than to escape the FRU. But back at the entry point of the tunnel, a dozen or so policemen were waiting with batons raised.

My vision became blurry, my throat itched and I struggled for breath. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to flash my media card for the benefit of the waiting policemen. They let me go on my way, and I soon regained my strength with fresh air.

But what about the protestors? I can only imagine their agony as they struggled with the terrible physical discomfort and the fear of being beaten up with batons.
I still cannot imagine why the police would shoot tear gas at the back of a crowd that was already running away unless it was to punish them for gathering at all.

On Sunday night, on TV news, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was heard saying “Just a little tear gas, and he’s already sprawled in hospital.”  The remark was clearly aimed at Anwar, and our prime minister sounded like a bully.  He should try sniffing tear gas.”

Lying Najib, recalcitrant Umno

A 70-year-old political activist has warned Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that Sabahans are 'reading cautiously' his handling of the situation in Kuala Lumpur.

KOTA KINABALU: A 70-year-old political activist from Panampang who is known to both the opposition and the ruling regime has expressed shock at the way Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has handled Bersih 2.0′s call for electoral reforms.

Having closely monitored Najib’s reaction to Bersih 2.0 from the onset of its chairman S Ambiga’s announcement on June 8, activist Fredoline Edwin Lojingki is both amused and angered by his irrational comments

“I listened and am amused at the comments by various Umno leaders including Najib’s on the peaceful Bersih rally.

“Especially on the point where they accused Bersih organisers of causing shop and business operators to lose business last Saturday.

“Those accusations are unfair…” he said in a statement today.

Lojingki said that Bersih did not instigate an “unruly” gathering or “disturb businesses in Kuala Lumpur or caused shops to close”.

“Najib and Umno people must ask themselves who were the ones who closed the roads and divert traffic and deprived Malaysians and tourists of transport on that day?

“Wasn’t it the police, under the instruction of Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein?

“Why was the King’s advice not taken seriously?

“Why block the roads if you are to allow the rally in a stadium as you promised Ambiga and the world?
“Of course, you (Najib) broke your promise and showed your inner self to be manipulative and exploitative.

“This is a very dirty tactic indeed and all in a desperate act to thwart the Bersih rally.

“By doing so, Najib, you have incurred the wrath of the people, including an old man like me. You have failed and you must ponder on it,” said Lojingki.

Untrustworthy Najib

The infuriated veteran also slammed Umno calling it “recalcitrant”.
“Recalcitrant Umno must do some deep soul-searching on what caused tens of thousands of Malaysians to join in the Bersih 2.0 rally.

“There must be a very good reasons for it.

“You know it, Najib – your Umno and its political culture are the main causes why Bersih was well-attended and participated even though there were no free food provided and no rock stars around as is usually done in your rally.

“And who was trying to disturb a peaceful rally? Wasn’t it Umno-linked Perkasa and Patriot?

“Why allow another rally to provoke the Bersih rally? I don’t like to see what is happening in my country.
“Take it from me, a 70-year-old activist from Sabah, that the ruling party is now going against its very own people.

“No amount of rethoric like you did last night could earn back the trust of the people, especially when you displayed untrustworthiness in making a promise to provide for a stadium for the rally.

“Dirty tactics such as this stinks to high heaven,” he said.

Lonjinki said Sabahans were “reading the situations (in the peninsula) cautiously”.

“We are watching especially on your dilly-dallying over the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the perennial problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah.

“Must Sabahans organise a rally for you to promise us something? But then again you may break it later,” the veteran said sarcastically.

The master-servant relationship

And this is the reason why we must redefine the master-servant relationship. In the past, before Merdeka of 1957, we the rakyat were the servants while the Sultans, who were the rulers, were the masters. But that has now changed. Today, we the rakyat are the masters and those we elect to run the country are the servants.

Raja Petra Kamarudin
I remember Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad lamenting about this same matter more than once. In a way he also touched on this issue in his book ‘The Malay Dilemma’, which was banned by the government in 1969 or 1970. In fact, later, when he became Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir went even further than that: he lamented that the Malays are so emotional and he wished that they were more like the Chinese -- pragmatic.

The issue that I am talking about here, and which is the brunt of Dr Mahathir’s lament, is that the Malays are too feudalistic. And Dr Mahahthir found this out the hard way when he engaged the Rulers in a Constitutional Crisis back in the 1980s and the rakyat sided with the Rulers. Dr Mahathir had no choice but to back off and rethink his strategy before coming back for a second round of attacking the Rulers.

Yes, even the great Dr Mahathir who could challenge Britain, America and Australia and tell them to go screw themselves could not break the feudalistic mind of Malaysians, in particular the Malays.

We all know the stories about the Sultans of old who would ask you to divorce your wife if he took a liking to her, or the son of the Sultan who would stab and kill you if you accidentally knocked into him, and whatnot. What about the legend of Hang Tuan and Hang Jebat where Hang Tuah is portrayed as a saint for allowing the Sultan to order his death based just on rumours while Hang Jebat is considered a villain for opposing tyranny and for standing up for justice?

Yes, that is how the mind of the Malaysian works, in particular the mind of the Malay. We are feudalistic through and through and don’t ever suggest that Malaysia abolishes the Monarchy and turn the country into a Republic. That would be like wearing a Liverpool T-shirt and walking into a Manchester pub. You would not need to jump out of a window of a MACC building to commit suicide.

And that has not changed much. Maybe the Sultans are no longer the powers-that-be and are only Constitutional Monarchs. Nevertheless, while we now have elected representatives instead of Monarchs in charge or running the country, these elected representatives and politicians have become the new feudal lords and masters.

And that is why we must become anti-politicians. Malaysians politicians have become the new feudal lords of Malaysia. Never mind whether it is Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat. They are all the same. After all, many of the Pakatan Rakyat politicians are ex-Barisan Nasional anyway.
And this is the reason why we must redefine the master-servant relationship. In the past, before Merdeka of 1957, we the rakyat were the servants while the Sultans, who were the rulers, were the masters. But that has now changed. Today, we the rakyat are the masters and those we elect to run the country are the servants.

But somehow the elected representatives and politicians have forgotten this. We removed the absolute Monarchy and replaced it with a Constitutional Monarchy. And then we elected those who should rule the country as our representatives. But then these elected representatives and politicians took over the role of the Monarchs and forgot that they are not our masters but our servants.

The politicians should not be the ones to tell us what to do. The reverse has to happen. We should tell them what to do. And now that the BERSIH march is over and Malaysia has regained its sanity, we need to focus on the new issue in hand. We need to bring the politicians to the negotiating table and force them to sign a Magna Carta or Social Contract with the rakyat.

The way the politicians are talking is like they are in charge -- they are the masters. They fail to realise that we the rakyat employ them and they work for us. They are not our masters but are our servants.

But can you just hear them talking? They are telling us that only they have the right to decide who shall become our elected representatives. When we tell them we are not happy they will reply that those seats belong to them so it is within their power to decide who contests the elections.

This seat is an Umno seat, says Umno. That seat belongs to PKR, says PKR. And all the more than 20 or so political parties will say the same thing. They decide who contests the election and which seat they contest. We the rakyat have no say in the matter.

So what say do we the rakyat have then? Nothing! We have no say whatsoever. Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat decide on the seat distribution and the list of candidates who will contest these seats. We the rakyat just put them into power.

They fail to realise that the seats do not belong to the political parties. They do not own them. The seats belong to the rakyat. It is the rakyat who gives them the votes. So surely the rakyat should have some say in the matter. The politicians and elected representatives are not our feudal lords and masters. And we are not their servants.

If we allow this state of affairs to continue the future for Malaysia will become very bleak. We do not have capable people running the country. What we have are political parties who treat elections as an exclusive club which only a handful decide who can join.

Over the next 20 years we shall realise the folly of our ways. Many of you will still be around 20 years from now. Some of us like me will not. And 20 years from now when Malaysia’s population has aged and the brain drain and capital flight have taken its toll on the country’s economy, we shall lament just like Dr Mahathir laments, that the feudalistic attitude of Malaysians has resulted in the country stagnating while the rest of the world progresses and moves forward leaving Malaysia behind.
Malaysia will become aged nation by 2030

The United Nations (UN) has projected that Malaysia will become an aged nation by the year 2030 when 15 per cent of its population will be above 60 years old.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry put the current number of senior citizens in Malaysia at 2.1 million, constituting 7.3 per cent of the total population.

Life expectancy was expected to rise from 72.6 years in 2010 to 74.2 in 2020 for men while for women, the figure was expected to rise from 77.5 years to 79.1 years during the same period.

'The figure is expected to rise in line with the improved health standards of the population,' Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said.

She added that the government, through the Social Welfare Department, had set up Rumah Seri Kenangan to provide care and protection to the aged who were poor.

As of May 31, there were nine units of Rumah Seri Kenangan throughout the country which provided care and protection to 1,942 residents. -- THE STAR/ANN

Thousands throng 'Bersih 3.0' ceramah in Penang

(Malaysiakini)They have been accused of hijacking the July 9 rally as calls of 'reformasi' - PKR's battle cry - reverberated on the streets of Kuala Lumpur instead of cries of 'Bersih' for electoral reforms.

Yet more than 5,000 turned up to throw a hero's welcome for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and PAS deputy chief Mohamad Sabu at the Seberang Jaya Expo site last night, a ceramah which the latter described as 'Bersih 3.0'.

penang bersih 3.0 rally mat sabu and anwar ibrahimBoth leaders, who arrived within 20 minutes of each other, made a grand entrance - Anwar entered sporting a neck brace and had to assisted as he headed for the stage, while Mohamad was in a wheelchair and was hauled up onto the platform by several security personnel.

A media frenzy ensued, with photographers jostling to take the best shot of the duo - their first appearance after their harrowing experience at the Bersih rally which included being tear-gassed and sustaining injuries.

Afraid that their leaders may sustain further hurt due to all the shoving, the emcee had to gently tick off the media for their enthusiasm and pleaded for calmness.

Judging by the mood of the multiracial crowd last night, the jubilation of those who joined the banned gathering in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday have spilled over into this Malay epicentre of Penang.

During his session, Anwar spoke briefly, but was noticeably less energetic than usual, obviously due to the pain on his neck and back he suffered following the KL Sentral underpass incident, which PKR had described as a "criminal act".

He managed, however, to lambast Najib Razak for accusing him of faking his injuries, saying that the prime minister had "no sense of humanity" for belittling others when they are down.

"I am forced to wear this neck brace - it was the doctor's orders after he saw how bad the injury was to my neck and back... I did not ask for it," he said.

"Najib would even like everyone to think that I had purposely gone for a (slip disc) surgery in Munich so that I can come home and show the people," he chided the prime minister.

Renewed enthusiasm
Meanwhile, the crowd displayed a rare sense of renewed enthusiasm for the Bersih campaign by responding boisterously to their leaders' comments, clapping loudly or offering a remark of two.

The mixed crowd of young and older men, women and children, sat on the grass patch and the more experienced ones rolled out their own mats, while it was business as usual for the operators of a nearby pasar malam.

penang bersih 3.0 rally participant with yellow shirtBefore the ceramah begun, many who just returned from the Bersih 2.0 rally on Saturday, were heard eagerly sharing their stories with friends and acquaintances.

Tales after tales of police brutality against peaceful protesters such as physical assault and the firing of tear gas directly into a retreating crowd which they witnessed "with my own eyes" were heard.

Although Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai and the police have refused to accept responsibility for the firing tear gas into the Tung Shin hospital near Puduraya, a Seberang Perai municipal councillor Oon Neow Aun said he was at the scene and witnessed the incident.

Police also arrested a shocking figure of 1,667 for taking part in illegal rallies and defying police orders to disperse, all of whom were released that night.

Government leaders, especially Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had refuted claims that the police force was brutal.

One-minute silence for Baharuddin

Meanwhile, Mohamad, who is widely known as Mat Sabu, arrived from Langkawi in the midst of a one-minute silent for Baharuddin Ahmad - spouse of PKR Setiawangsa women's chief Rusni Melan - who died of a heart attack after he was chased by police during the rally.

The police have denied involvement in his death, saying that Baharuddin did not die out of complication arising from exposure to tear gas.

penang bersih 3.0 rally lim guan eng and other speakersPenang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who initiated the silent memorial said it pained him to see his friends injured as the result of the police's reaction against the protesters.

"But nothing can be more painful than to know of Baharuddin's death, so let us remember him," he said.

"And no matter how much pain they are suffering, these two leaders have come... this is the kind of leaders we want, those who would go through thick and thin with the rakyat," he added, referring to Mat Sabu and Anwar.

Despite having to go for a leg surgery this Friday, Mat Sabu, who spoke in his wheelchair, was in high-spirits as he entertained the crowd.

"Najib lies! Najib lies! Najib lies!" shouted Mat Sabu, asking the crowd to echo him several times as he related a series of incidences where Najib "flip-flopped" in his handling of the Bersih rally.

However, despite all the bad blood between the opposition and the police, Mat Sabu said "all is not lost yet".

He advised the force not to be partisan since "if tomorrow BN is gone, you will still be around".

He urged the police to protect the rakyat, not Umno.

"But if you protect Umno, if they fall, you will fall also," he added.

"It is still not too late to act professionally in your duties... do not work for Umno, which is rotting internally."

Postal voting overhaul

The New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by Farrah Naz Karim

KUALA LUMPUR: The postal voting system for the impending general election will be conductedin a new way, following trials over the past year.

For the first time in Malaysia’s general election history, political party agents will be allowed to sit in military camps and police headquarters to not only verify voters’ names, but monitor the whole process of the voting system, now rebranded as “advance voting”.

Envelopes and postal bags will also make way for transparent ballot boxes, as seen at regular voting centres, where party representatives will sign on the seal of ballot boxes once voting is over and check during tallying that the boxes are not tampered with.

At army camps and police headquarters, uniformed officers who had, in the past, managed the election themselves under the supervision of a handful of Election Commission personnel, have been relieved of this responsibility to allow EC officers to run the show independently. EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said this was among improvements to the electoral system that the commission had been working on over the year and was n ow ready for implementation in the 13th general election.

He said the system was tried and tested in several by-elections and was ready to be carried out on a mammoth scale, involving some 200,000 military and police personnel, who would be casting their votes a few days ahead of the general election.

“We are all for an efficient and transparent voting system and this is among areas where we do not have to wait for amendments to the laws to be made.

“Perception has been an issue as when uniformed personnel run the whole process, it is only expected that claims of biasness arise.

“In making this advance voting system more efficient, we will allowparty agents to sit inside the polling station from morning to finish when military and police personnel vote,” Wan Ahmad told the New Straits Times ye s t e r d ay.

Once voters have crossed the ballot papers and slipped them into the transparent box, the papers would be kept under tight security.

For instance, if the voting session goes on for several days (usually one to three days) the boxes would be kept in the returning officer’s off ice.

On polling day, the votes from the personnel would be counted either at the returning off icer’s office or at the tallying centre.

Wan Ahmad said the EC was still putting in measures to close loopholes the system might h ave .

The issue the opposition had with advance voting at military and police bases, he said, was the number of ballot papers issued.

“In a camp where there are 100 registered voters, for instance, not everyone will be present as some will be away on training or duty.

Their worry is that these ballot papers will be abused although we have explained to them that every piece is accounted for.

Wan Ahmad said those strongly opposed to the advance voting system could not expect army and police personnel to join the masses on polling day to cast their votes as police personnel would be on duty to ensure safety and security, and army personnel were expected to be on guard to protect the country.

Bersih 2.0 – A nation stirs

Some of the images from Bersih 2.0 will remain etched in our memories. 
Over in the Tapak Expo in Seberang Jaya on mainland Penang, a crowd of 10000 turned up last night for a state government event, according to a tweet by Guan Eng. He added that Mat Sabu’s knee would be operated on this Friday.
Earlier, Penang CPO Ayub Yaakob expressed the hope that the state government’s scheduled programme would be held “dengan aman dan tidak beremosi“. See Berita Harian report “Polis pantau majlis DAP“.
But Najib’s fiery ‘emosi’ at Majlis Penerangan Perdana the previous night was okay? - Anil Netto

Imam, school principal shot dead in Russia's Dagestan

Russia:Village imam was shot dead during evening prayer in Russia's restive Dagestan region late Saturday, the region's interior ministry said.

Imam Magomed Makhdiyev was shot in the back and head by an unidentified gunman in Karamakhi village mosque during evening prayer, Dagestan's interior ministry said on its website on Sunday.

Makhdiyev died at the scene, the ministry said.

It was the second known murder of an imam in less than a month in Dagestan, where religious and educational leaders appear to be increasingly targeted as Russia fights an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus.

A school principal was targeted early Saturday in a different region of Dagestan. Sidikullah Akhmedov, who worked in the Sovetskoye village school, died on the spot near his home from wounds to the stomach, the ministry said.

Islamist website, affiliated to the Caucasus Emirate group, called Akhmedov an "adversary of Islam" who opposed the wearing of the hijab in school.

Dagestan has experienced some of the deadliest violence in Russia's mostly Muslim southern periphery since peace was largely restored in neighbouring Chechnya just under a decade ago.

Bukit Aman vigil for PSM 6

Putrajaya should drop ‘Cold War’ mindset, says scholar

Shamsul questioned the selective deployment of state security at public assemblies. — file pic
BANGI, July 11 — Social anthropologist Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin today advised the Najib administration to modernise its internal security to deal with present-day threats, instead of holding on to “Cold War” tactics just to be able to deploy them on political rivals.

The professor from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) reminded the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition that the “enemy” was no longer armed communists battling a jungle war but a civilian movement consisting of politically-awakened middle class that is wired to the global community.

“It’s a telling point on the ruling coalition when they are still dealing in traditional security, which is based on the Cold War concept of weapons and [physical] fighting,” he said.

“The ruling coalition needs to switch from traditional security to non-traditional,” he added, explaining that there are finer aspects to defence, which now consist of five components.

He named them as power or energy, water, food, health and education, saying the five components are integrated.

“The issues put forward by Bersih 2.0 are legitimate issues in the [Federal] Constitution and an ongoing issue, in terms of freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

“It’s a continuous thing and it’s not going to be the end,” Shamsul Amri said.

“But the state is behind the times and the incumbent group has been very slow to respond. They’re too used to respond to a Cold War situation,” he said.

“If you study their training manuals, their emergency response, the police and the army, it’s the same as during the Emergency years,” he noted, referring to the battle with communists pre-Independence.

Shamsul Amri noted that too many contemporary analysts tend to comment without looking back at history.

“When the public demonstrated in front of the US embassy previously, over the Palestinian issue, did the police come? No. So why did they come for this?” he quizzed, referring to Saturday’s rally, which Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had declared illegal on July 1.

Asked for his view on whether the rally had birth new social icons of dissent from the middle class against the ruling coalition, such as Bersih 2.0 chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and national laureate, Datuk A. Samad Said, Shamsul Amri said: “Icons are icons… they don’t effect change unless they contest in the general elections and win,” he said.

“Karpal Singh is still more relevant than them,” he said.

“In the end, it’s all about translating into votes,” he added.

The academic explained that the average voter wanted to see his elected representative voice out the grassroots’ concern in Parliament.

Shamsul Amri noted that many Members of Parliament have failed that test, including politicians from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact.

He admitted with some embarrassment that some of them used to be his students, such as Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who is PKR’s secretary-general.

Anti-Bersih group holds Najib to ransom

The petition’s starter threatened to abandon Najib if his administration does not address his demands. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 — Anti-Bersih supporters have mounted a petition online, threatening to abandon its support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration if the prime minister fails to revoke the citizenships of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan and punish Bersih marchers.

Pledging one million signatures, the petition started by one Rahmat Azim Abd Aziz, 39, warns Najib against ignoring its five demands, saying its signatories would not hesitate to rebel to defend Malaysia, “even without the help of Datuk Seri’s (Najib) government”.

As of 8pm today, the petition entitled, “Legal action and recommendations to His Royal Highness the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia to revoke medals and accolades” has attracted 173 signatures.

It was created on, a site that hosts online public petitions for free, but Facebook users have since caught wind of it and are sharing links to the site on fan pages and their profile pages, urging others to sign it.

“If Datuk Seri (Najib) does not take stern action and monitor subversive elements and efforts to tarnish the country’s image, Malaysians will lose direction and faith in your leadership.

“When this happens, traitors to the country will find it easier to take over our beloved Malaysia. Datuk Seri’s efforts will become pointless and the futures of our youths will become uncertain,” the petition said.

Claiming to represent the views of a majority of the government’s supporters, the petition urged that its demands be given “full and serious” consideration, saying that “peace, harmony, unity and Malaysia’s economic strength” are important elements for the present and coming generations.

“Racism and disunity have become more widespread due to incitement from opposition parties, NGOs and foreign agents. We want stability, economic strength and unity.

“All of Datuk Seri’s efforts in developing the economy will be destroyed in the blink of an eye simply because of those who are uncomfortable with seeing progress in Malaysia,” said the petition.

In its demands, the petition called on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin to revoke the titles of Ambiga, Anwar, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and national laureate Datuk A. Samad Said.

It also wants Anwar and Ambiga’s citizenships revoked, saying the duo had instigated the people to riot, rebel and defy the country’s rule of law.

It also demands that legal action be taken against any of the 91 individuals who violated a court order obtained by the police barring them from entering the city on July 9.

Among those who were locked out were Ambiga, Anwar, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, and Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

The petition also seeks legal action against Bersih 2.0 organisers for supposedly defying the King’s advice, and the over 1,000 protestors who were arrested for participating in an illegal rally.

Pro-Bersih supporters have also started a similar campaign on Facebook through a fan page calling for Najib’s resignation.

The page, which was set up shortly after Saturday’s rally, hit its 100,000 target at 3.50am this morning and has continued growing since then. As at 8pm today, a total of 136, 902 people have clicked “Like” on the page.

ALERT: Guidance on BERSIH Rally (RAHSIA)

By most accounts, the Bersih 2.0 protest on July 9 could turn out to be massive and will certainly go beyond issues of fair and free elections. With over 100 political, NGO and right groups could be joining the “March for Democracy”, we expect them to champion a slew of issues ranging from inflation to Teoh Beng Hock and Lynas. The protest, if not countered, could undermine the government, the economy and national security. This note sets out the policy guidance and the do’s and don’ts in managing the issue.

Raja Petra Kamarudin
YB Datuk,
Attached please find the guidance/messaging on the Bersih issue for your attention and action, where necessary.
This follows the UMNO Political Bureau meeting where this issue was also discussed and that this material be circulated to all bureau members.     
Please note that the usual confidentiality rule applies.
Please do not forward or disseminate it to unauthorised person/persons.
Thank you and best regards
Jalil Hamid
Head, National Communications Team, PMO
Issue: BERSIH 2.0

By most accounts, the Bersih 2.0 protest on July 9 could turn out to be massive and will certainly go beyond issues of fair and free elections. With over 100 political, NGO and right groups could be joining the “March for Democracy”, we expect them to champion a slew of issues ranging from inflation to Teoh Beng Hock and Lynas. The protest, if not countered, could undermine the government, the economy and national security. This note sets out the policy guidance and the do’s and don’ts in managing the issue.


The process of mind-conditioning will continue in the run-up to July 9. The process will include:
1.    Discredit the organisation and its key leaders. Bersih is neither registered with ROS nor ROC. It is NOT an election watchdog but a group of politicians and politically inclined individuals who lack credibility.
2.    Label the rally as “perhimpunan haram” or “illegal assembly”, and that the people behind Bersih are trouble shooters and going against the Constitution and the law to gain political mileage.
3.    That they are just a front for the opposition.
4.    Since DSAI is already “out of the race” for premiership, he has to resort to street protests because PR can’t win GE13 through ballot boxes. He is seeking a “short-cut” to Putrajaya via undemocratic and unconstitutional means. Remind people about his Sept 16 bluff.  
5.    DSAI is also using this to shift the public attention away from his legal and moral woes.
6.    Create anxiety that Bersih is working for the interests of foreign elements, who are out to destabilise the country. 
7.    That BERSIH is not bersih (clean) after all as it is an illegal group out to create havoc.

Do’s and Don’ts

1.    KDN Minister, IGP, DIG and Internal Security and Public Order Director to brief media editors at KDN. Use the meeting to reinforce the branding as “perhimpunan haram”, that Bersih is an unlawful organisation and the perpetrators are out to create chaos.
2.    KDN, which has jurisdiction over all print media, needs to exert its authority in ensuring the press toe the line.    
3.    Confine politicians to just making political statements. Let the police do their job.
4.    PDRM can start calling up Bersih organisers based on the hundreds of police reports lodged so far.
5.    Encourage the use of 3rd party validators.
6.    Pre-empt chaos and disorder (fear paradigm). The “show of force” by UMNO or silat groups well before July 9 may be imperative to deter demonstrators.
7.    The soundbytes in our favour MUST come from across the country and across the ethnic lines. The soundbytes should not just be confined to the Malays or those residing in the Klang Valley.
8.    We must not allow the rally to be exploited by international elements.
9.    As a pre-emptive measure, the authorities should stop the launch of Perhimpunan Bersih 2.0   scheduled for 19 June at the Chinese Assembly Hall. Likewise, a related Perkasa event called “Lawan Perhimpunan Bersih” at the Sultan Sulaiman Club on the same day should also be halted.
10.    SPR should counter Bersih demands for free and fair elections by highlighting the various initiatives it has undertaken so far. Use the highly successful Sarawak PRN as its model. It should not meet up with Bersih people. 

Recommended media treatment

1.     Media to highlight stories of how businesses, retailers, tourists, shoppers, motorists and ordinary people will be affected. (July is the peak month for Arab tourist arrivals; plus the top three EPL teams will also be in town in July). Malaysia will be in bad light if the teams skip KL on security grounds.
2.    Question the source of funding for Bersih.
3.    The media will primarily be targeting the trio: DSAI (who is capitalising on this ahead of his July 15 Sodomy 2 trial), the newly minted PAS deputy chief Mat Sabu (who is the budak suruhan DSAI and tali barut DAP) and Ambiga.
4.     We will encourage the media to use file photos of Ambiga with PR leaders to highlight her close association with them. Ambiga has the history of leading street protests when she was Bar Council president.
5.    The media to use less of the same old faces (eg Zul Nordin, Zahrain, Ibrahim Ali) as “attack dogs.” Try to tap fresh faces (eg BN Youth leaders, some NGOs).
6.    Friendly bloggers and cybertroopers will continue to be mobilised.
7.    TV stations to constantly play up images of ugly demos in other countries.

Desired outcome

1.    Neutralise the opposition noise.
2.    Reinforce the view that public sentiment is NOT with Bersih and the opposition.
3.    Send a strong message that the government is full control of the situation, that it will not tolerate trouble makers and those who undermine the rule of law.
4.    No apparent adverse impact on investor confidence or Malaysia’s political risks.

17 June 2011
Bersih says that the prime minister and the IGP are still maintaing there was no police brutality in Saturday's rally despite extensive video evidence.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar are still in a state of denial. They still deny police brutality during Saturday’s rally despite extensive video evidence of police’s heavy-handed techniques.

Bersih said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by Najib and Ismail’s continuous denial, which “completely flies in the face of extensive video evidence” of the police’s heavy-handed techniques.

“We expect much higher standards of integrity from those entrusted with leading our nation and keeping it safe,” the statement said.

The authorities have maintained that there has been no police high-handedness throughout the rally. However, numerous eye-witness accounts beg to differ. One such incident was the firing of tear gas into the Tung Shin Maternity Hospital.

The police have denied that they fired canisters of tear gas into the hospital grounds, but numerous eyewitness accounts and photographic and video evidence showed that the police had fired tear gas and sprayed chemical-laced water into the hospital compound to lure out Bersih supporters.

Bersih has encouraged participants to submit such photographic and video evidence of police brutality to them.

Ironically, this request from Bersih comes just as Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the police themselves will release footages to counter allegations of brutality.

At a press conference in Bukit Aman police headquarters today, Hishammuddin also warned that action will be taken against those who make baseless allegations against the police.

“We have visual recordings in our operation room. Whatever has been alleged will be investigated , and action will be taken against those in the Internet and foreign media who have made baseless allegations,” he was quoted in a Malaysiakini report.

‘Police brutality shocking’

Bersih also said that acts of police brutality “against a peaceful gathering of unarmed citizens” were “unwarranted” and “shocking”.

“Such acts demonstrate beyond doubt the utter failure of the authorities to uphold and protect the most basic human rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”

Bersih expressed shock over the continued arrests of people associated with the electoral watchdog even after Saturday’s rally.

FMT learnt that eight in Sabah were arrested today for wearing yellow T-shirts.

“There is absolutely no need for such paranoid harassment and the authorities must stop these actions at once,” Bersih said.

Bersih also extended its deepest condolences to the family of Baharuddin Ahmad who lost his life while participating in the rally in the KLCC area.

Police said that Baharuddin, in his late 50s, died of heart complications. City acting police chief, Amar Singh, said that the post-mortem showed that he did not suffer any internal or external injuries.

However, Bersih claimed that it had received reports that the main cause of his death was the heavy-handed action of the police and their “complete failure” to provide timely medical aid. However, it did not elaborate further on these reports.

Massive turnout

Bersih also called for the immediate release of the six Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) members detained under the Emergency Ordinance 1969.

“They have done nothing wrong and we insists that they be released immediately without any conditions,” it said.

Bersih said that intimidation by the authorities will not prevent the electoral watchdog from continuing its struggle for free and fair elections.

It also added it was clear from the massive turnout that a huge number of Malaysians agree that things are not right with the electoral system.

Bersih organisers have said that about 50 000 supporters have turned up for Saturday’s rally. Police, however, have put the number at only 6,000.

Press reports estimate that there were 10,000 to 15,000 people who participated in the rally.

‘Perhimpunan Bersih agenda runtuhkan orang Melayu’

Sehubungan itu, akhbar tersebut meminta umat Islam supaya berhati-hati dengan gerakan yang boleh menjatuhkan orang Melayu melalui orang Melayu juga.

PETALING JAYA: Akhbar Perkasa, NGO Melayu yang menentang perhimpunan Bersih 2.0 di Kuala Lumpur mendakwa perhimpunan itu adalah salah satu agenda untuk meruntuhkan  orang Melayu.

Suara Perkasa mendakwa satu lagi agenda untuk meruntuhkan orang Melayu ialah pilihan raya masjid di Pulau Pinang yang telah dibatalkan oleh Yang Di-Pertuan Agong sebelum ini.

Sehubungan itu, akhbar tersebut meminta umat Islam supaya berhati-hati dengan gerakan yang boleh menjatuhkan orang Melayu melalui orang Melayu juga.Akhbar Perkasa itu juga mendakwa, dengan sokongan kelompok Melayu dari PAS dan PKR telah memberi semangat yang kuat kepada Pengerusi Bersih Datuk Ambiga S untuk menjayakan perhimpunan Bersih.

“Melihat kepada kesungguhan PAS untuk menjadi pengekor Ambiga, ramai yang tertanya-tanya apa sudah jadi dengan PAS sekarang?

Dosa Ambiga

“Apakah mereka telah lupa dosa Ambiga selama ini? Apakah PAS lupa Ambiga yang kini mereka angkat menjadi ketua dalam perhimpunan Bersih 2.0? tanya akhbar itu.

Akhbar itu menambah, PAS sepatutnya perlu merasa malu pada diri sendiri kerana rela dijadikan kaldai tunggangan oleh Ambiga bagi menjayakan agenda bagi  membersihkan pilihan raya.

Perhimpunan Bersih mendapat sokongan dari NGO dan parti-parti politik pemabngkang termasuk PAS.
Presiden PAS, D atuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang dan beberapa pemimpin utama lain telah ditahan kerana menyertai perhimpunan tersebut.

Kira-kira 1, 600 orang telah dtahan dalam perhimpunan tersebut. - FMT

Parents upset over no action on Umno bully

An Umno official has been implicated in an asault on a 15-year-old schoolboy in Sabah. The police however say the injuries could have been self-inflicted.

KOTA KINABALU: A 15-year-old school boy, who was allegedly bashed-up by an Umno division information chief just outside his school, may not see justice.

A teacher, who went to check on the assault report lodged by the boy’s mother at the Tanjung Aru station two weeks ago, was told that the boy was ‘not assaulted’ and instead had merely injured him by falling into a drain.

The police reaction has sparked fears of a cover-up.
The shocked mother is demanding to know why it’s taking so long to investigate the assault on her son, Louise Ting Chee Fui.

“It has been two weeks since the report was lodged but we have not heard anything regarding the case from the police.

“Why is it taking so long for them to come back to us?

“This is a serious case as it involves a student being assaulted by outsiders and we are afraid this can happen to other students if nothing is done,” she told a local daily here.

Louise was assaulted after he picked up a football that had flown out of the school grounds and hit a passing car.

Local newspapers reported that Louise was a bystander watching some fellow students kicking a football around when a wayward kick saw it fly over the fence and hit a passing Proton Saga.

The motorist, believed to be a local Umno information chief, stepped out of the car and tried to force his way into the school. But the school security personnel stopped him.

But Louise, who was standing outside near the drain where the ball landed had picked up the ball to return it to the players inside the school grounds.

Seeing Louise with the ball enraged the motorist who rained blows on the surprised boy.

Louise suffered a deep cut on his forehead that needed several stitches, severe swelling around his eye and bruises on the left side of his face.

He was later rushed to hospital by concerned teachers.

Since the incidents, students have stopped playing football in the field for fear of being marked by those who attacked Louise.

WIKILEAKS: 9th Malaysia Plan: ambitious agenda and challenging implementation

Non-government economists support these goals publicly but deplore them in private. Some challenge the reliability of the government's data. For example, a significant amount of publicly listed shares are held under nominee accounts, many of which are bumiputera-owned, but the government considers all of them non-bumiputera. Others decry the added cost of business the NEP policies place on private investors and the disincentive they pose to FDI.
Raja Petra Kamarudin


REF: 2005 KUALA LUMPUR 03692

Classified By: Economic Counselor Colin Helmer.  Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Prime Minister Abdullah recently unveiled the Ninth Malaysia plan (9MP) which envisages spending RM 220 ($60 billion) of government and private development funds during 2006-2010 and targets an average economic growth rate of 6.0%. 
9MP identifies five key areas, such as improving Malaysia's human capital, becoming a knowledge-based economy, and investing in key infrastructure, in which Malaysia must improve to achieve its goal of becoming a developed industrialized nation by 2020. 
Analysts are confident that the infrastructure projects, projected rate of economic growth, and some technology projects will unfold as planned, but deem projects in other areas, such as education and agriculture, to be unrealistic.  While laudatory in their public comments, Malaysian economists we have spoken to in private are disappointed with the plan.  They also question the GOM's ability to implement the reforms needed to attract a higher level of foreign direct investment. 
9MP calls for Malaysia's private sector to take the lead in further developing the country, but our sources doubt Malaysian leaders will give private industry the freedom to transform the economy.  Prime Minister Abdullah views 9MP as his top economic initiative, is aware of the challenge of implementation and is taking steps aimed at improving follow up.  End Summary.
Five Key Thrusts
2. (U) The 9MP lays out five broad goals that Malaysia is to meet by 2010 to keep on schedule for the "Vision 2020" goal of becoming an industrialized, developed nation by the end of the next decade.  The economists with whom we met agree that these goals are well laid out, pragmatic, and correctly describe the path Malaysia needs to travel. 
They are:  to move the economy up the value chain; to raise the capacity for knowledge and innovation and nurture a "First Class Mentality;" to address persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively; to improve the standard and sustainability of quality of life; and to strengthen institutional and implementation capacity.
Show Me the Money
3. (U) The 9MP will provide about RM 220 billion (US$60 billion at RM 3.65=$1) of government and private development spending during 2006-2010.  Approximately 40% of this is allocated to what the GOM defines as economic programs, 40% to social programs, 12% to security and 8% to general administration.  Funding for the subsectors that follow will come from either the social or economic segments of 9MP.
Although the 9MP budget is 17.6% higher than the previous plan, 35% of 9MP's budget is earmarked for finishing up 8MP projects that were not completed during the last five year plan.
4. (SBU) About 23% of 9MP funding will be devoted to infrastructure and utilities development projects, an increase of 21.2% over the 8MP.  As compared to Mahathir-era plans with their large infrastructure projects, PM Abdullah chose to cut the pie into many small projects so that more construction contractors might participate. 
According to Dr. Yeah Kim Leng, Managing Director and Chief Economist at RAM Consultants Group, the GOM conducted cost/benefit analyses to identify projects that would produce a higher return on investment.  This apparently was not done in the past.
5. (U) Although human capital development has been one of Abdullah's stated priorities, and despite media reports suggesting education was one of the big winners in the plan, education and training will receive only about 20% of the total budget.  This is about the same as in the preceding 5-year plan (8MP) developed by Abdullah's predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.  New initiatives include strengthening the national (public) schools so that they become the "School of Choice" for all races in Malaysia.
6. (U) Agriculture, one of Abdullah's favored sectors, will receive about 6% of the funding -- a 70% boost over 8MP. However, 9MP sets a goal of transforming Malaysia into a net food exporter by 2010, which outside analysts believe is impossible given control over land use by the individual states and the higher returns from land uses other than food and livestock production.  Biotechnology will get 1%, 2.5 times more than it received in 8MP.
Ambitious Growth Targets
7. (U) In its last five-year plan, the GOM projected an average economic growth rate of 8%, but the actual rate during 2000-2005 was about 4.5%.  In the background to the 9MP, government analysts place partial blame for the shortfall on the U.S.: "Global growth slowed due to a decelerating United States of America economy, and dampened electronics demand, exacerbated by the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Overall economic performance remained sluggish until the second half of 2003, weighed down by the invasion of Iraq and the regional outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome."
8. (C) The government is targeting a more modest average annual growth rate of 6% during 9MP.  The economists that we interviewed (a mixture of academics, investment advisors, consultants, and think tank researchers) voiced a variety of opinions about that target, with Yeah of RAM asserting, "this is eminently achievable." 
Dr. Mohamed Ariff of the Malaysia Institute of Economic Research presented a study to the GOM where he argued for a 5-6% growth rate as opposed to the 7-8% that many ministers supported.  He maintains that it is better to aim lower than to fail to meet the target.  The chief economist at CIMB agrees that 6% is within Malaysia's grasp. 
Wong Chee Seng, chief economist at ECM Libra Securities, is much more negative, saying "The government will not meet its targets.  It moves too slow."  University Malaya professor Andrew Sheng (formerly chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Commission and Bank Negara Assistant Governor) disagrees.  Looking at regional growth estimates from the International Monetary Fund, he wonders why the GOM did not set the growth bar higher.  He believes that Malaysia should link its growth to China and India by exploiting complementary business opportunities.
Seeking Private Help
9. (C) The 9MP calls for the private sector to lead growth, aided by the public sector in its role as facilitator and regulator.  Our economic contacts agree with this idea, but observe that it will require a significant increase in private investment, both domestic and FDI.  Under 9MP, the GOM projects private investment to grow at an annual rate of 11.2% and public sector investment at 5% -- rates that are inconsistent with recent trends. 
Under the 8MP, private investment actually contracted about 1% each year.  Changing this situation would require the GOM to give the private sector more freedom from regulation and control than its socioeconomic objectives for the bumiputera (ethnic Malay) community currently allow.  For example, the current requirement that 30% of equity and employment be reserved for bumiputeras is a significant investment disincentive.  As Yeah put it, "Why would you want to do all the work of setting up a business in Malaysia only to have to turn 30% of it over to someone else?"
10. (SBU) One of PM Abdullah's signal economic achievements has been to shrink the government's budget deficit, now down to 3.8% of GDP.  9MP appears likely to slow further progress on deficit reduction.  According to Wong, Abdullah concluded that too many people depend on government contracts to keep applying the screws to expenditures.  At the end of the 9MP, the overall federal government fiscal deficit is forecast to be RM 107.6 billion, or 3.4% of GDP, assuming the government can meet its growth targets.  The majority of our contacts are not overly concerned with this change in fiscal stance.
Sheng argues that it is reasonable for a developing country such as Malaysia to pursue deficit spending on infrastructure projects that will generate growth.  The difficulty in the past, he says, has been large public projects that do not offer a good return on investment.
Ambitious Development Goals
11. (U) Some examples of the sort of investment that University Malaya's Sheng sees as positive are biotechnology research, ICT infrastructure (such as high-speed internet and more training in schools), and development spending on tourism.  Sheng sees these as high-growth projects with the potential to leverage more investment and business for Malaysia in the future. 
Pointing to India and its back-office outsourcing, Sheng asks, "Why shouldn't Malaysia be able to offer similar services at a competitive price?  We have the education, English language, and with this type of incremental investment, we can do business with New York via the internet." 
He is similarly enthusiastic about the plan to promote the tourism sector, which in 2005 drew 16.4 million tourists and generated RM 32.4 billion (US$ 8.8 billion) -- 80% more than export earnings from palm oil, six times more than rubber, and only 30% less than the oil and gas industry.
12. (C) Some of 9MP's ambitious goals are so lofty as to appear unachievable in five years.  For example, the plan calls for Malaysia to increase the percentage of university professors with PhDs to 60% from the current level of 20%.
Time and resource constraints, coupled with the fact that highly educated workers can do better elsewhere, make achieving this goal unlikely.  As Wong of ECM Libra noted bluntly, "I tell my children to stay in New Zealand.  What opportunity does a Malaysian educated abroad have here?"
13. (C) Some of the agriculture goals seem equally unrealistic.  For example, the government proposes to increase rice production by approximately 50% by 2010.
According to Ministry of Agriculture Deputy Secretary General Zulkifli Idris, the prime minister pushed for sharp production increases to benefit Malay farmers in the politically sensitive northern states.  Traditionally, Malaysia has grown about two-thirds of the rice it consumes domestically, importing the remainder from low-cost producers like Thailand and Vietnam. 
Although the cheap imports allow the GOM to maintain low fixed retail prices for urban and rural consumers, the government loses money on every ton of rice produced domestically: it pays direct subsidies to farmers while Bernas (the government-linked monopoly rice importer and the main marketer of domestically produced rice) buys locally produced rice at a higher price and sells it at low, government-fixed retail price. 
Working-level contacts indicate that the sharp rice production increase in 9MP is unrealistic, and Zulkifli admitted as much in his statements. Nonetheless, the planned investment in such areas as improved irrigation, mechanization, and farmer organizations in the northern states will likely have a political payoff for Abdullah.
NEP Rides Again
14. (U) With the publication of the 9MP, Prime Minister Abdullah also went firmly on record in support of maintaining the National Economic Policy (NEP).  The NEP was introduced in 1970 with the goal of transferring at least 30% of Malaysia's equity and wealth to bumiputeras through affirmative action policies favoring the Malay majority's participation in the economy. 
The NEP was initially intended to have been completed in 1990, but when the target was not met the government replaced the NEP with the National Development Policy (NDP).  With 9MP, Abdullah has pledged to continue these policies through 2020 with the hope of finally achieving the 30% goal.
15. (U) The 9MP will try to raise the bumiputera equity stake to 20-25% in 2010 from 18.9% in 2005.  The plan also seeks to narrow the income gap between bumiputeras and ethnic Chinese from a ratio of 1:1.64 in 2004 to 1:1.50 in 2010, and between bumiputeras and ethnic Indians from 1:1.27 in 2004 to 1:1.15 in 2010.  It also sets a target of halving the country's overall poverty rate from 5.7% in 2004 to 2.8% in 2010, and completely eliminating "hardcore poverty" in 2010.
16. (C) Non-government economists support these goals publicly but deplore them in private.  Some challenge the reliability of the government's data.  For example, a significant amount of publicly listed shares are held under nominee accounts, many of which are bumiputera-owned, but the government considers all of them non-bumiputera.  Others decry the added cost of business the NEP policies place on private investors and the disincentive they pose to FDI.
Implementation - GOM versus Private Industry
17. (U) Since the 9MP roll-out, the government has generated a steady media buzz about the importance of effective implementation of the plan.  Abdullah has publicly promised to fire any civil servants who get in the way.  But the GOM and industry have different ideas of what constitutes good implementation. 
The GOM has announced that 9MP will feature better governance, world class project management, increased due diligence, less corruption, and speedy disbursement of funds. 
In a recent speech, Effendi Norwawi, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department for Economic Planning and Abdullah's point man for the 9MP, explained that the GOM wants to work in partnership with the private sector.  He emphasized Abdullah's personal commitment and noted the creation of a new agency, the National Implementation Action Body (NIAB) to monitor the performance of agencies implementing major projects under the 9MP. 
Abdullah will head the organization, with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak as deputy chairman and ministers with specific 9MP authority sitting on the council.  It will meet every two weeks and, according to Effendi, Abdullah will be demanding progress reports.
18. (C) The prime minister's own office is set to receive a large allocation under the 9MP.  Although there is no detail as to how the funding will be spent, 9MP sets aside RM 26.5 billion (13.2% of the total) for Abdullah's department - a threefold increase over 8MP (RM 7.3 billion and 4.3%). 
The public spin on these figures is that the resources will enable the prime minister to focus on his key goals and move the process along.  In private, however, economists voice concern over the potential for abuse of funds.
19. (C) When the private sector talks about good implementation, they hope the GOM will remove the mass of government red tape and regulation that increases costs and scares away investment, both local and foreign.  Minister Effendi himself related a story about a hotel venture that required 73 different licenses before it could open.  Some took so long to obtain that the operator needed to repeat the application process because they only lasted for a year.
Yeah detailed a similar process in Penang, saying "at least at the international level, there is MIDA to be one-stop shopping for the licenses.  A Malaysian investor must deal with both state and local regulations and the government needs to move to change this quickly."  But few economists believe that the GOM will move decisively to cut red tape and reduce its economic meddling. 
Sheng compared Malaysia to China: "In Shanghai, they were trying to take some business from Hong Kong and the manufacturer asked if they could move his product from China to the distribution point, including customs, in 24 hours.  Shanghai's mayor was able to make this happen.  Would that be the case in Malaysia?"
Economists Not Overly Optimistic
20. (C) Comment:  Successful implementation of the 9MP is Abdullah's top economic priority, but the economists we surveyed are not optimistic that he will be able to achieveall his goals for the plan.  While they see some good initiatives, they do not see bold steps that would lift Malaysia back up to the growth rates of the late 1980s.
There is a sense of urgency in both the senior levels of the government and among senior economists that Malaysia is at a crossroads.  Wong suggested that, "there are two camps in the government, the ones who see that if we do not make changes that we will settle into second class and the others who are happy with the way things are." 
Sheng, in a presentation to senior business leaders, government managers and economists, argued that Malaysia was in a similar situation as the U.K. and Japan in the early 1980s.  The U.K. was not doing well and opted to open its financial sector to bring in FDI and investment.  Japan, in contrast, tried to hold onto its manufacturing lead and did not open to foreign investment. 
He suggested that Malaysia might want to examine how the two nations are faring today and consider its options.  End Comment.

Truth That Cannot Be Cover – Bersih 2.0

The Bets On Aishwayra Rai

Aishwarya blows a kiss to her fans
Bollywood's breathless baby bulletins

(Asia Sentinel) Although Indians obsess endlessly about cricket, Bollywood movies and stars, politics and potholed roads, the level of preoccupation rises sharply during the monsoons when the situation worsens. Right now it’s at a fever pitch over a series of subjects, but clearly in the lead is the possible pregnancy of one of India’s most beautiful actresses.

It is Bollywood’s Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World who has adorned the covers of several top foreign magazines in addition to Indian ones, who has the tongues wagging the most and has the gossip news rolling out of the newspaper kiosks. Aishwarya, fresh from striding across the red carpet at Cannes, appears to be pregnant, much to the chagrin of at least one film director who had cast her in a glamorous role in the long-awaited movie “Heroine,” and had no idea about her biological status. The movie has now been put off indefinitely.

There had been considerable speculation about Aishwarya’s condition in the past, but this time the news has been confirmed by the most reliable source used by the information gatherers – the celebrity Twitter account of Aishwarya’s father-in-law, the actor Amitabh Bachchan, who proclaimed himself ecstatic about the prospective new arrival.

There has been no denial or an indication that the account has been hacked. Aishwarya’s husband Abhishek Bachchan, an actor himself, is also reported by the media to be happy with his wife’s condition, telling the fan magazines he’s “on top of the world” and that the couple hopes to have two children.

The Indian paparazzi mob their favorites for the latest updates, feeding pictures to mainstream newspapers that carry exhaustive color supplements that feature this kind of stuff. Aishwarya’s stunning strapless deep blue-and-white floor-length gown at Cannes ranks right up there with the western paparazzi’s chase for Carla Bruni’s baby bump close-up, or for Pippa Middleton’s sheer dress from the back at Wimbledon, where the newly crowned Dutchess of Cambridge’s sister was crowned by the paparazzi for having what has been called in the UK the Rear of the Year Award, supplanting J-Lo.

Aishwarya isn’t alone. Bollywood produced a staggering 1,288 feature films in 2009, with a vast number of actors and actresses delivering up a steady diet of gossip for the masses of newspaper readers. Today there is feverish speculation about the marriage of number one actor Salman Khan, well into his forties and a bachelor to boot, which is taking top priority. Khan, revered by many for his playboy lifestyle, has delivered some of the biggest Bollywood hits “Ready” and “Dabangg” in the recent past.

It helps matters for the paparazzi that Salman’s bevy of beautiful ex-girlfriends includes the present top heroine Katrina Kaif and, at one time, Aishwarya herself. Many tales can thus be easily spun around Salman and his girls, current and past that range from spats, breakups, quarrels and more.

When Aishwarya’s pregnancy became known, reporters in the gossip trade zealously sought Salman’s opinion. The actor subsequently told television channels that he was very happy for the couple and wished them well.

Gossip extends to politics as well. Today the eye is on Congress party scion Rahul Gandhi, also in his 40s and single. There has, however, not been much to write about the young Gandhi, except for his regular dashes from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, a state that he fancies politically. Yet, Gandhi, a young face of Indian politics is always under scrutiny and his marriage plans are speculated upon intensely and endlessly.

Yet, one benchmark of true interest in any episode is India’s big satta (or illegal gambling market) where presently wagers are being put on the gender of Aishwarya’s yet-to-be-born child. Some reports suggest that a few satta operators may have even approached Aishwarya’s doctors discreetly to inquire about the status of the fetus -- boy or girl -- to fix deals.

India’s satta market is usually the most active when the cricket team is playing matches, but picks on other matters when the going goes quiet, to keep clients glued and revenues coming in. These matters range from results of elections in states or the center, cabinet reshuffles, important legislative matters including no confidence motions, executive appointments, date of arrival of monsoon and multiple other combinations.

In cricket, the bets are not just on wins and losses but on a myriad of individual scores and performances. Such is the level of money involved that several international players have been banned and prosecuted for match-fixing and the more difficult-to-track “spot fixing.” The Indian cricket team is playing a test series in the West Indies, a period of relative disinterest that isn’t keeping the bet money flowing.

Consequently, the bets are being placed on Aishwarya, although the results will only be out in November when the actress is reportedly due to deliver. Money will certainly change hands but there is no doubt that nothing sells like gossip news, anywhere. The satta market thrives on it.

(Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at