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Friday, August 5, 2011

Seven-year wait for their own homes

Some 90 house buyers are facing financial strain as they not only have to service their bank loans but also have to pay rent while waiting for their houses to be completed.

SEREMBAN: For seven years some 90 house buyers have been servicing their bank loans and still they do not have their own roof over their heads.

The 90 units comprised of single storey and double storey houses is at Taman Bandar Ekar in Rantau.

Housebuyer R Gunasegaran said that he has to pay RM485 every month to the bank and thats only the interest, excluding the principal RM96,000 bank loan.

“The houses are not completed but every month we have to service the bank loan. This is apart from the rental for the house we are currently staying in,” said Gunasegaran.

Another house buyer Zulkefly Mat Yusof said the developer had an irresponsible attitude.

“Our dream is to have our own house but this has been shattered by the developer. I’m appealing to Menteri Besar Mohd Hasan to help us as he is also the state assemblyman for Rantau”, said Zulkefly.

Another housebuyer S Avadiar told FMT that he met the developer few times to discuss the abandoned project but the result was disappointing.

“When this project was abandoned, the house buyers met the developer and they told us they will complete this project within two years which was in 2008. But till today nothing has happened.

“Can you imagine our financial situation? I have to pay the loan installment of RM800 every month to the bank and at the same time pay my house rental RM350 per month,” said Avadiar.

Bungling Najib making opposition stronger

A former minister says the crackdown on the Bersih 2.0 rally had made the NGO into a giant and strengthened the opposition.

SERI KEMBANGAN: Former minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s poor handling of the Bersih 2.0 rally had made the polls watchdog a potent force and strengthened public support for the opposition.

Kadir, a former tourism minister during the time of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said Najib could have easily minimised the Bersih threat if he had engaged the NGO instead of resorting to force, which, he added, had boosted the group.

“The government had built it up to become a big giant,” he told FMT in a recent interview at his office here, agreeing with the opinions of various party leaders who believed it would have been better to engage the polls watchdog in discussions than resorting to repressive measures.

“I would have allowed the procession right from the beginning… then there will be no noise at all… Bersih would have had only two days of publicity,” said the Umno veteran who described Bersih’s demands for electoral reforms as valid.

The suppression of the July 9 rally drew widespread condemnation from home and abroad.
Nearly 200 people were arrested ahead of the rally, and almost 1,700 more were detained on July 9 when Kuala Lumpur was virtually locked down.

No two-thirds for Najib


Despite the efforts to prevent the rally from taking place, tens of thousands converged on the capital city in a march for free and fair elections.

The protest, which the government had earlier declared illegal, turned chaotic when police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the huge crowd.

Observers believe Najib’s strong-armed tactics had strengthened the opposition and is likely to blunt his drive to regain a two-thirds majority in the 13th general election tipped to be held early next year.

Kadir agreed that it would now be hard for Najib, who took office not through a general election, to win a stronger mandate.

“It’s not a secret. They (Umno leaders) themselves have admitted that it would be hard to regain the two-thirds majority,” said an Umno member.

‘Why no action on cops who blackmailed me?’

Security guard B Ramesh still waiting for answers from police over a report he filed last year.

PETALING JAYA: Security guard B Ramesh is keen to know the outcome of a police report he made against policemen who threatened him with Emergency Ordinance detention if he did not give a false statement against an NGO head.

“Until today, I’ve heard nothing from the police,” said Ramesh, 33, who lodged report in Oct 20 last year at the Kajang Police station. “I’m still getting threatening calls.”

In his report, Ramesh said policemen had been ‘blackmailing’ him and forcing to implicate R Sri Sanjeevan, the public complaints bureau head of the Astivaaram Foundation.

Ramesh claimed the policemen threatened to detain him without trial under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 (EO) if he did not cooperate by giving false statements against Sanjeevan, who is his brother’s a friend.

Ramesh, a former EO detainee, filed a fresh police report last week, urging Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to look into the matter.

“I want the police to take immediate action to investigate and take appropriate action against the policemen who threatened and hounded me,” said Ramesh.

‘Threats over the phone as well’

In his original report in October last year, Ramesh claimed a ‘sergeant Guna’ of the Negeri Sembilan D7 police unit threatened him to implicate Sri Sanjeevan or face detention under the EO.

Ramesh said two other officers also  made the same threat over the phone and demanded that he assist them in putting Sanjeevan behind bars.

The callers on the phone had identified themselves as “sergeant Maran” and “Chief Inspector Karuna” from Bukit Aman. They wanted Ramesh to get five others to implicate Sanjeevan.

Negeri Sembilan CID chief Mohamad Zaki Masro, in November last year,  told FMT a police inquiry was near completion and it was the prerogative of Attorney-General to open a proper investigation paper.

“We’ll not protect any party if the allegations are found true,” said Mohamad Zaki.

Sack the bustad!

Malaysianinsider reports that Selangor MB Khalid has personally communicated the regret of the state government to the Damansara Utama Methodist Church over the raid by JAIS at the multiracial dinner held at the church 2 nights ago.

However, Selangor exco member in charge of Islamic affairs, Hasan Ali, appears unrepentant over the incident and appears to be undermining the position of the state government taken by the MB.

Malaysiakini reports that Hasan has made some very serious allegations about what was taking place at the dinner in question, including, the proselytisation of Muslims, presumably to Christianity.

Hasan also alleged that the organisers had tried to destroy evidence of some sort when the raid started.
Evidence of what, he does not say.

This is not the first time that Hasan has been the centre of controversy in the state.

Let us also not forget that he was a key player in the negotiations with UMNO immediately after the 12th GE with a view to trying to form a PAS-UMNO unity government in the state.

The resolution of this matter has gone beyond a mere apology by the state government to the aggrieved parties.

Unless Hasan can substantiate every single allegation he has made with regard to this latest fiasco, it is time that PAS sack him and the MB do the necessary to remove him from the office that he now holds in the EXCO.

Anything less than this must be read as a condonation by the Pakatan Rakyat leaders of this man who appears intent on sowing discord amongst the rakyat of Selangor. - Ibrahim Ali

Mars may have flowing saltwater, study says

Mars may have flowing saltwater, study says
An image taken by NASA’s HiRISE camera shows the Newton Crater, where it appears there may be liquid salty water.
Scientists have found new evidence for possible saltwater flows on Mars. The discovery was announced at a NASA news conference Thursday.

Alfred McEwen, lead author of the Science journal study showing these observations, and his team have been observing Mars using the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. His team has identified features on some slopes of the planet that appear to fade in the winter and come back in the spring.

These flows occur near the Mars equator in its southern hemisphere, where temperatures would be suitable for liquid water. Since Mars is about 50 million miles farther from the sun than Earth, temperatures rarely break the freezing mark. At the equator, summer highs can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit (about 20 Celsius). But in the middle latitudes, where the observations disclosed Thursday were taken, temperatures range from about 32 degrees F at summer noon to overnight lows of -75 F (-60 C).

The water is expected to be briny because previous study of the planet has shown that its surface is salty, so any water that flows in the subsurface is going to be salty.

Seven such sites on the planet have been confirmed, with 20 more possible, McEwen said.

“What makes these new observations so interesting is they occur at much lower latitudes where temperatures are much warmer and where it’s actually possible for liquid water to exist,” said Arizona State University geophysicist Phil Christensen, one of the scientists who studied the images beamed back from the orbiter.

The study does not prove water exists, but identifies it as the best explanation. It's worthwhile to think about alternative reasons for these observations, but none seems to fit as well as briny water, McEwen said.

"I think it’s going to be laboratory experiments on Earth that give us the best confirmation or refutation," he said.

The water may be higher in density and viscosity than what we're used to on Earth, to the point that it may appear syrup-like.

So what does this mean for life on Mars? If Mars has water that flows as a liquid in warmer times and freezes at others, if organisms live there, they might go into a resting state during winter, said Lisa Pratt, professor of geological sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington. This is pure speculation, however.

"It is our first chance to see an environment on Mars that might allow for the expression of an active biological process, if there is presently life on Mars,"  Pratt said.
CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.

DEATH SENTENCE: MORE HANGINGS AND DECAPITATIONS FOR SHARIA

(ANSAmed) - ROME, AUGUST 4 - The use of the death penalty to implement the Sharia, Islamic law, continues to increase year by year: in 2010 there were at least 714 executions, against 658 in 2009 and around 585 in the previous year, in 13 countries with a Muslim majority, many of which ordered by religious tribunals.

The sentences were carried out by hanging, decapitation and execution by firing squad. These figures emerged from the 2011 report presented today in Rome by the association 'Nessuno tocchi Caino' (Hands Off Cain).

Worldwide 24 of the 47 countries with a Muslim majority practice capital punishment; 18 of these have a judicial system that explicitly refers to the Sharia. There is only one Islamic country, Iran, that applied the death penalty in 2010 and in the first six months of 2011 to minors who were under the age of 18 when they committed their crime. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritania and Egypt also sentenced minors to death, but did not execute the penalty.

The Sharia has been applied through hanging, decapitation and execution by firing squad. In Iran, Nigeria and Pakistan people have been sentenced to death by stoning, but there are no reports of actual executions by this method, though stoning is used without regular trials in Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hanging, often in public, is the most widespread method. The Iranian version is particularly cruel: in this country a crane or a low platform is used that causes the convicts to die a slow and painful death. The only country to apply decapitation is Saudi Arabia. In 2010 there were 27 executions, less than half of the number recorded in 2009 (at least 69), but the number of decapitations increased significantly in 2011 (34 on July 25).

Police quiz PKR staff on Israeli tear gas canisters

Polis, bukan Bersih sekat pemandu teksi

Penawar: No mutiny in Umno

Penawar president Aziz Shamsuddin says the organisation comprising ex-Umno MPs is supportive of Najib's leadership.

KUALA LUMPUR: Penawar, an organisation comprising former Umno MPs, has denied calling on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to step down.

Speaking to reporters here this evening, Penawar president Aziz Shamsudin also dismissed speculation of a mutiny brewing in Umno.

“In the meeting on July 29, which I chaired, Penawar did not and has never made the decision to call for Najib to step down. Any misperception should be corrected,” he said.

He said that at the meeting Penawar discussed Najib’s administration and the state of governance.
Denying the existence of a move to oust Najib, the former political secretary to Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this was a misconception.

“There is no such thing. Umno is fully behind Najib,” he said, adding that the prime minister had worked hard to develop the nation.

“A lot of people are saying things blindly, we were formerly in the government ourselves and sympathise with him,” he said.

Aziz, a former Cabinet minister, explained that Penawar was formed to provide views and support to the prime minister.

“So we are sad that it was reported that we asked for him to step down, we old Umno leaders respect the government and are loyal to Umno,” he said.

‘Slander is widespread’

Yesterday, FMT reported that Penawar, during its meeting last week, had expressed disappointment in Najib’s leadership and wanted him to step down while Aziz, when contacted, declined to comment.

In a posting, prominent blogger Mohd Sayuti Omar had also claimed that among those who attended the meeting was Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s brother, Aziz Yassin and former deputy premier Ghaffar Baba’s son, Thamrin.

Aziz was also present during Penawar’s press conference today.

This morning, PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali also claimed that there was an attempt to oust Najib before the next general election.

Meanwhile, Aziz said if it was true that a Penawar member had fed false information about the meeting to the media, then he should resign.

“In this organisation we have discipline and conditions. If he said so, then he should feel guilty. We are honourable people,” he said, expressing regret that those who benefitted during the past 50 years, had now turned their backs on the government.

Aziz also remarked that slander was now widespread and this must be curtailed or the “nation would be enveloped in darkness”.

In a related development, a source claimed that Penawar was forced to backtrack because of political pressure.

“This is the game of politics. When something that is meant to be kept behind closed doors becomes public, it creates an akward situation,” he added.

Religious council condemns raid on church

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism hits out at JAIS for disrupting a thanksgiving function.

FULL REPORT - FMT
PETALING JAYA: Malaysian authorities appear to have little respect for places of worship, an interfaith council said.

Reverend Thomas Philips, head of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), who said this, condemned a raid on a church last night.

“It is a total disregard for respect. Whoever initiated the raid should have known better. You can’t just simply go inside a church and create problems,” he said.

More than 30 police and Selangor Islamic Department (JAIS) officers, several in plainclothes, raided the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Section 13.

Harapan Komuniti, an NGO, was hosting an annual thanksgiving dinner for about 100 people, including 15 Malays at the Dream Centre building which houses the church.

Acting without a warrant, the government officials gate-crashed the event at around 10pm, seizing programme sheets and questioning dinner guests.

Philips said that any sort of raid or investigation into a house of worship needed to be coordinated alongside local religious leaders.

“What if they (the authorities) interrupted a wedding (ceremony) or another religious activity?” he asked, adding that such an act would certainly result in a public backlash.

He added that the least government officials could have done was to get clearance before conducting the raid.

Undue harassment

In a statement, DUMC senior pastor Daniel Ho said that the church was “highly disappointed” with the authorities, who entered without a warrant.

“They have subjected all the guests at the thanksgiving dinner to undue harassment.”

Both JAIS and the police, he added, upon entering the church premises, started to take videos and photographs.

“When asked why they were there, JAIS officers replied that they received a complaint, the nature of which they could not disclose, neither could provide a copy of the complaint,” said Ho.

He said the officers proceeded to take down the details of the Muslims present before leaving the premises.

He also revealed that Harapan Komuniti was hosting a “celebratory gathering” of people involved with the NGO’s activities.

He said that the gathering was to celebrate the NGO’s work in various community projects, involving HIV/AIDS and natural disasters.

Sultan should interfere

Christian Federation of Malaysia chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing said his federation was “deeply shocked” and “appalled” by the raid.

The federation urged the Sultan of Selangor to intervene and conduct a thorough investigation on the matter.

Calling the actions of the state religious enforcement authority “high-handed and repugnant”, Ng also questioned the legality of the raid and the subsequent interrogation and harassment of the dinner guests.
“Christians are shocked and saddened at this deplorable action,” he said.

“This arbitrary action of the JAIS and the police officers is an affront to the values of mutual respect and harmony which should be accorded to every person, regardless of religious, cultural or ethnic background in Malaysia.”

Ng said there has been an increase in cases where Christians have been singled out and targeted with unjustified accusations and prejudice from various groups as well as certain mainstream media which have made inflammatory statements against the spirit of 1Malaysia.

State government, PAS should take responsibility


MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek said the state executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs, PAS’ Hassan Ali, must explain the “uncalled for and disrespectful” raid.

Stating that JAIS should apologise for its rude intervention, Chua added that even if there were suspicions or complaints, the JAIS enforcement officers should have waited until the event was over.

“In no uncertain terms should the officers gatecrash a function which was held within the confines of the church ground.

“The incident serves as a reminder to non-Muslims, including the church, that PAS is not as liberal as it claims to be,” he said in a statement. He also hit out at PAS for imposing its religious will on others.

Meanwhile, MCA vice-president Senator Gan Ping Sieu demanded an explanation and apology from the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government over the JAIS raid.

“For state enforcement officials to disrupt a dinner held to promote unity, question the multi-racial participants and seize the programme booklet, is an outrageous conduct and is against pluralism practices and the concept of unity,” he said in a statement.

Gan said it was all the more shameful as it took place during the holy month of Ramadan.

“All along, the Pakatan Rakyat has made a mockery of Barisan Nasional’s 1Malaysia concept but last night’s raid again brought to the fore the coalition’s narrow-mindedness and parochial inclinations,” he said.

He questioned why Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and Selangor executive councillor Teresa Kok, who is a Christian, have remained silent.

Gan said the latest incident only showed that Pakatan has allowed extremism to creep into its administration, citing the examples of opposition against the MTV concert, the proposal to ban sale of beer, and a recent plan to close entertainment outlets in Kedah during Ramadan.

Remove A-G's prosecution powers & drop charges against PSM 6


By N Surendran
 
I refer to the criminal charges brought against the PSM 6 on 3rd August 2011 under s.29(1) Internal Security Act 1960, s.43 and s.48 Societies Act 1966. The charges are related to the Bersih 2.0 peaceful campaign to reform the electoral process.
The continued State-sanctioned persecution of these six dedicated political and social activists bodes ill for our nation. The police force, government and Attorney General have put themselves in an untenable position. They are using State powers to crackdown on a movement for free and fair elections, and to criminalize citizens such as the PSM 6 who participated or supported that movement The charges against the PSM 6 are politically motivated and a blatant abuse of investigation and prosecution powers. These six men and women have a long and spotless record of public service; their persecution shames the nation.   
 
We note with grave concern that the office of the Attorney General has been consistently used to bring politically motivated criminal charges against opposition politicians and civil society. The powers of the Attorney General must be reviewed and immediate reforms must be instituted. The powers of prosecution should be held by an independent Director of Public Prosecutions, as is the practice in many Commonwealth countries. 
 
Meanwhile, Keadilan condemns the criminal  investigation launched upon the editor of Suara Keadilan, its journalist and Keadilan leader Latheefa Koya under section 505(b) Penal Code. They were questioned today by Dang Wang police relating to an article published about tear gas canisters. This police investigation is an infringement of the freedom of the press and another instance of the continual police harassment of opposition parties and their news organs. 
 
We call for: 
 
a) Immediate withdrawal of all charges against the PSM 6;
 
b) Urgent reform of the office of the Attorney General and removal of prosecution powers to an independent body;
 
c) End of police harassment of Suara Keadilan and its journalists.
 
Issued by,
 
N SURENDRAN
VICE PRESIDENT
KEADILAN 

Enggan ke mahkamah: Najib, Rosmah takut konspirasi terbongkar

(Oleh: Rusnizam Mahat)

KUALA LUMPUR: Perdana menteri Datuk Seri Najib Razak dan isterinya, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor enggan ke mahkamah sebagai saksi dalam kes Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim kerana bimbang konspirasi  mereka terbongkar.

Pengarah Strategi KEADILAN, Rafizi Ramli berkata,  Najib dan Rosmah tidak mungkin dapat menyembunyikan penglibatan mereka dalam kes itu, sekiranya dipanggil ke mahkamah.

Ini kerana bukti menunjukkan Najib berjumpa dengan Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, dua hari sebelum pengadu itu membuat laporan polis pada 28 Jun 2008, mendakwa diliwat Anwar. Selain itu Saiful juga bertemu Datuk Mumtaz Jaafar iaitu pembantu khas kepada Rosmah.

Kenyataan Najib dan isterinya turut direkodkan oleh Pegawai penyiasat DSP Jude Pereira sepertimana yang diberitahu pegawai polis itu di Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur pada Mac lalu.

“Dalam dua-dua latar belakang ini, Najib dan Rosmah ada peranan penting dalam keseluruhan kes fitnah ini. Kalau mereka disoal siasat, saya tidak yakin mereka boleh sembunyikan konspirasi ini.

“Ia akan mengesahkan pendapat rakyat bahawa mereka terlibat dalam keseluruhan konspirasi fitnah ini.

“Kita tahu di mahkamah, soalan akan ditanyakan secara khusus, sebab itu mereka tidak berani tampil sebagai saksi,” kata Rafizi kepada Keadilandaily.

Tambahnya lagi, Najib sepatutnya menggunakan peluang yang ada untuk membersihkan imejnya dengan hadir ke mahkamah, namun ternyata mengelak berbuat demikian.

“Kalau betul Najib tak terlibat dia boleh hadir sebagai saksi kerana ia baik untuk imejnya dan Rosmah. Lebih baik tampil di mahkamah berikan keterangan yang betul,” katanya.

Sementara itu, beliau turut menyatakan kes itu hanya mengulangi semula skrip pada 1998 dengan beberapa watak masih dikekalkan.

“Kaedahnya sama dari segi cara , malah watak-watak dari 1998 juga adalah orang yang sama seperti Musa Hassan (bekas Ketua Polis Negara) dan Rodwan Yusof (bekas Ketua Polis Melaka).

Semalam, Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur dimaklumkan oleh Peguam Cara Negara II, Datuk Mohamed Yusof Zainal Abiden bahawa Najib dan Rosmah,akan hanya ditemubual jika mereka disepina dengan alasan mereka bukan saksi utama.

Ia termasuk juga bekas Ketua Polis Negara Tan Sri Musa Hassan dan bekas ketua polis Melaka Datuk Mohd Rodhwan Yusof.

Justeru mahkamah akan memutuskan Isnin ini sama ada permohonan Anwar memanggil 15 orang saksi termasuk Najib dan Rosmah untuk dibawa ke mahkamah dibenarkan atau sebaliknya.

Malaysian PM's Wife Draws flak

Image
Najib and Rosmah: The drums, always the drums...
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s wife blazes her own controversial trail
The surat layang – “flying letters” in Malay, or anonymous assaults -- have been flying in record numbers in recent weeks, attacking Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. They are being picked up and spread in volume by the country’s blogosphere, much of it arrayed against the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition.

It isn’t certain who is behind the attacks, but they are clearly tied to national elections expected either late this year or early in 2012. The opposition and the dominant United Malays National Organization are blaming each other and both saying they aren’t involved. But the 60-year-old Rosmah has become a lightning rod for criticism of the administration, most of it centering on her alleged profligacy and her reported dominance of her husband’s political and social agenda. The attacks compare her to both Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth, who drove her husband to murder and tragedy, and to former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos, who gained fame for her extravagance including owning hundreds of pairs of shoes.

More ominously, as Asia Sentinel has reported, she has been the subject of rumors for several years that she somehow was involved in the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, to the extent that a businessman close to her allegedly paid a witness RM750,000 to get out of the country after he said the dead woman had an affair with her husband. In addition, court testimony has indicated that she met with a former aide to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim prior to the aide’s accusing Anwar of raping him.

Those in Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition say the attacks on Rosmah are coming from Muhyiddin Yassin, the 64-year-old deputy prime minister and protégé of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Muhyiddin played a major role in driving former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from power and has long been regarded as being ambitious to succeed Najib should the prime minister stumble.

Added to that equation, the sources say, are Mahathir’s own ambitions to see his third son Mukhriz, currently the deputy minister of international trade, as deputy prime minister. Muhyiddin also fits Mahathir’s political philosophy more than Najib does. He is an advocate of Ketuanan Melayu – ethnic Malay dominance of the economic and political landscape, in opposition to Najib, who is committed to his so-called 1Malaysia campaign, an attempt to bring other races back into the Barisan Nasional fold. Mahathir has become increasingly strident in his calls to preserve Malay dominance as well.

Sources in the United Malays National Organization blame the accusations on Pakatan Rakyat in an effort to blacken Najib’s reputation and hamstring the ruling national coalition in advance of elections expected later this year or early next. One aide to a top UMNO politician says neither Mukhriz or Muhyiddin would be likely to be attack Rosmah as Najib’s surrogate now. If serious infighting broke out within UMNO, the aide says, it would seriously cripple the party and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in advance of the polls.

If Mahathir and Muhyiddin were really after Najib, the aide says, it would make no sense for them to be daring the destruction of their party and the loss of even more of the Barisan’s power, which was severely dented in March 2008 elections when for the first time in the country’s then-50 year history its two-thirds hold on parliament was broken by the opposition. Other sources say that Mahathir himself owes a debt of gratitude to Najib’s father, the late Tun Abdul Razak, for rehabilitating him after he had been kicked out of UMNO b y Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister, and that he wouldn’t go against Najib for that reason.

However, observers point out, Muhyiddin hasn’t been publicly defending either Najib or Rosmah lately. One businessman in Kuala Lumpur told Asia Sentinel: “Mahathir and Anwar are both working towards the same objective even if they aren’t working together – get Najib out.”

Rosmah has been controversial since well before Najib became prime minister. The newest sensation appeared a few weeks ago with a report by a Kuala Lumpur-based opposition blog that she had received a US$24.8 million diamond ring from the New York-based Jacob & Co. jewelers and that the ring had passed through customs without duty being charged. Rosmah has said publicly that: "There is nothing I want to say (in relation to the purchase of ring) because I have no time to entertain such issue.” She later denied buying the ring.

She has also been photographed carrying what appears to be a Birkin handbag, designed and manufactured by Hermès of Paris and named for the actress and singer Jane Birkin. Prices of the bags range from US$9,000 to US$150,000 according to the type of material used. She has been photographed as well wearing what appears to be a 65.77 carat white and black Zebra safari bangle bracelet from also Jacob & Co. and made of white and black pave diamonds and 18-karat white gold.

In addition to her taste in jewelry, Rosmah has raised hackles about her influence on government, rumors that she is enriching the family and because of the social life she leads. Particularly galling to some is her claiming the title of Malaysia’s first lady, a title usually reserved for the wife of the king. A six-person unit has been established in the prime minister’s office, known as FLOM, an acronym for First Lady of Malaysia, to look after her needs, a far cry from the wives of previous prime ministers such as Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, Mahathir’s austere physician wife.

Sources say Rosmah has continually inserted herself in the political process and has been responsible for spending vast amounts of government money – for instance, as much as RM80 million in a 15-month campaign to refurbish the Prime Minister’s residence.

In April 2010, Joshua Wong, then the producer of the popular Malaysian current affairs program "Editor's Time," resigned, charging that the NTV7 channel, which is controlled by UMNO, buckled under from complaints from the Prime Minister's Department and Rosmah personally about coverage of opposition politicians. Other newspaper editors complain that she frequently calls to complain about coverage of both her and her husband.

Last year, tongues began to wag in Kuala Lumpur over Rosmah’s taste for the high life in New York and other capitals, particularly because of her reported closeness to Low Taek Jho, who calls himself Jho Lo and spent an astonishing amount of money on starlets, movie actors and celebrities in New York. Low routinely dropped as much as US$60,000 a month in Manhattan night clubs, according to the New York Post, which said Low once sent 23 bottles of US$900 Cristal champagne to troubled actress Lindsay Lohan's table as she was celebrating her 23rd birthday.

“This Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania graduate from Malaysia,” the New York Post reported Aug. 1, 2010 “has burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars at the city’s hottest nightspots in the last three months — and shows no signs of stopping.”

Low, who was said to be pals with Paris Hilton, is also believed to be the mystery man behind a US$180,000-US$230,000 advertisement that ran on April 2010 in the New York Times congratulating Rosmah for being Malaysia’s “first lady.” after she received the inaugural “International Peace and Harmony Award” from an obscure US-based business group. The Times first said the advertisement had been placed by the government, then reversed itself three weeks later and declined to say who was behind it.

On April 16, 2010 according to the New York Post, Rosmah and Najib were given a star-studded party in honor of the award that was emceed by actor-comedian Jamie Foxx and attended by a flock of movie stars including Charlize Theron and Robert De Niro and included performances by Grammy-award nominee Leona Lewis and the Harlem Boys Choir. The Nut Graph, a Malaysian Blog said the festivities included karaoke duet version of “You’ve Got a Friend” performed by Rosmah and De Niro, who was later invited by the Rosmah to visit Malaysia.

News media including the New York Post and Gawker in the United States say Low, the son of a wealthy Chinese family from Penang, owes much of his cachet to his friendship with a Kuwaiti and fellow Wharton graduate, Hamad Al Wazzan, the chairman and CEO of the Al Wazzan Group of Companies in the US.

An UMNO source in Kuala Lumpur says Low used his links with Rosmah to become the middleman in a massive land deal in Kuala Lumpur -- the redevelopment of the 152-hectare 80-year-old Sungei Besi Air Force Base, a prime, centrally located site that appears to have been awarded without tender to a joint venture between 1Malaysia Development Sdn Bhd and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), the armed forces retirement fund.

According to local media, the project is being developed through a joint venture with the Qatar Investment Authority, possibly with the involvement of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co.

Whether it is fair or not, the flying letters are giving a growing segment of the Malaysian public the impression that Rosmah has become a major detriment to her husband.

Whichever side is delivering the allegations, they may be having an impact. Mustapha Ali, the secretary-general of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia told a press conference Wednesday that a revolt is brewing in UMNO because Najib and his wife had become a liability to the Barisan. Reportedly, Mustapha told the reporters, party officials fear the long string of scandals are affecting voter sentiment.

That, of course, is the opposition trying to stir up trouble in the Barisan. An UMNO source told Asia Sentinel that “this is the opposition intensifying their attacks before the election. They are weak ”

But clearly the surat laying are flying indeed.

Does MIC Deserve Three Ministers?

by Kee Thuan Chye   
PRIME Minister Najib Razak is being cavalier with taxpayers’ money in making MIC president G Palanivel a full minister. His promotion from deputy minister will incur increases in Palanivel’s salary, perks, claims and pension – and the rakyat will be paying for them. Is it justifiable?
 
The MIC has only four Members of Parliament, but it now has a line-up of three ministers and two deputy ministers. How is that proportionate? If T Murugiah had not lost his senatorship last April and thereby his deputy minister position, there would be three MIC deputy ministers now.

It’s surprising Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa have not uttered a squeak about this. Which reinforces the general perception that Perkasa fights shy of criticizing the ruling party and may actually be linked to it, despite claims to the contrary.

Why do I say the MIC now has three ministers?, you ask. Well, let’s not forget Samy Vellu. Less than eight months ago, he was appointed – also by Najib – to be Malaysia’s special envoy to India and South Asia with ministerial status (my italics). That was apparently his reward for stepping down as MIC president. It was to give him face through a dignified exit. But why was that necessary?

I raised questions about it then. I asked why the MIC should get another ministerial position after its poor performance at the last general election (GE). Where is the regard for values if rewards are given when they are not deserved?

Now Najib has further displayed this lack of values by giving a third ministerial position to a party that has performed miserably. So, to answer my own question about whether it’s right to make Palanivel a minister, I say unequivocally, “No.”

What purpose is served by promoting Palanivel?

According to Najib: “I want to return to the era of Abdul Razak where there were two Indian ministers in the Cabinet.” Is that all? Just because he wants it? Where’s the good reason? It sounds almost as whimsical and flippant as saying Abdul Razak was his father and therefore he must emulate the latter.

He also says the decision proves that the Government is committed to the Indian community and intends to work closely with them; and giving them another minister is giving them the opportunity to play an even more effective role.

What, pray tell, is that “role”?

If you suspect it is to support Barisan Nasional (BN) at the next GE, you would probably be right. Najib is clearly trying to win Indian votes with this move. But if public funds have to be incurred for him to do that, it cannot be proper. Why should taxpayers’ money be used to keep BN in power? BN is only the government of the day; it cannot use public resources to improve its chances of getting re-elected.

Najib may also feel that Palanivel should hold the same rank as MIC’s deputy president, S Subramaniam, who is already Human Resources Minister. But it is not Najib’s duty to give Palanivel face by putting him on ministerial par with his deputy. Palanivel must, first of all, deserve the position.

The question is, does he?

He was not duly elected at the 2008 general election. He in fact lost his Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat. And when it came time for a by-election for that same seat in 2010 – because the PKR candidate who had defeated him died while in office – he was not chosen to be the candidate. Instead, a much junior MIC member, P Kamalanathan, was selected. What did that signify?

It seems at the time, Najib himself did not favor Palanivel, and for a good reason: Palanivel was not liked by his constituents when he was the MP there; they said he was seldom seen in the vicinity.

Nonetheless, when the by-election was over, Najib made Palanivel a deputy minister in the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry. This was apparently both consolation for his being bypassed as Hulu Selangor candidate and preparation for his takeover as MIC chief.

Najib accomplished this by using the backdoor method of making him a senator first. This was the same method he employed to make ministers out of other politicians openly rejected by the rakyat in 2008, like Koh Tsu Koon and Shahrizat Abdul Jalil; and also to make deputy ministers out of election losers Awang Adek Hussein and Chew Mei Fun.

Bringing back losers in this unsatisfactory manner has made Najib’s practice questionable. The same goes for his appointment of Palanivel as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Besides, why do we need yet another Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department when there are already five – Koh, Nazri Aziz, Nor Mohamad Yakcop, Jamil Khir Baharom and Idris Jala? Is there so much work to go round for six?

What positive effect will his appointment have on the public interest? How will he better serve the rakyat when he was a disappointment to his Hulu Selangor constituents?

Such considerations, however, don’t seem to matter to Najib. What matters most is the Indian vote. He probably sensed that he had lost some Indian support after the unpopular month-long detention of the six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members under the Emergency Ordinance (EO). Making the offer to Palanivel is his attempt to salvage the loss.

The timing tells it all.

First, Subramaniam (on July 27) and then Palanivel (on July 28) publicly called for the PSM 6’s release. “I spoke to the Prime Minister several days ago and asked him to release them,” Palanivel said, as if to declare that the PM would listen to him. Then on July 29, the PSM 6 were actually released.

This made it look like the MIC could take credit for the release of the PSM 6, which would go down well not only with Indians but other Malaysians who had expressed outrage at the detention. But knowing how our wayang politics works, we may not be wrong in thinking that the release decision had already been made before the MIC’s appeals.

After all, why did Subramaniam and Palanivel choose to speak up only a month after the six were detained? Why did they not speak up when the arrest was first made of the six and 24 others on June 26 on suspicion of “waging war against the King” and “resurrecting Communism”? Why did they not come out then to say that such a suspicion was ridiculous? They kept quiet; their silence was an endorsement. They were complicit to the arrests as partners of the ruling regime.

Be that as it may, on July 30, at the MIC’s general assembly, Najib announced making Palanivel a minister. That being the day after the PSM 6’s release, it was obviously calculated to add to the feel-good momentum. As a result, Najib’s ratings might well go up, and those of the MIC’s as well.

But before Indians exult and decide to swing back to BN, what they might need to ask is how they will benefit from this. As minister, will Palanivel dare to speak up for them when at his own party’s general assembly last weekend, delegates were directed not to discuss the Interlok issue? When it comes to the big issues, will he be able to stand up to big brother Umno or just be a “running dog” doing its bidding?

And as for the PSM 6, the story is not yet over. Five days after their release, they were charged for being in possession of subversive documents, and will be tried together with the other 24.

Perhaps Palanivel’s first test as minister should be talking to the Prime Minister and asking him to drop the charges. Let’s see how far he can get with that. If he succeeds, then we can truly say that he deserves being made a minister. And that taxpayers’ money is being wisely spent.


*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer.

Sarawak Report expose sends shock-waves in media world

A Sarawak Report expose that top BN politicians had allegedly paid RM15m annually to buy positive publicity on shows like CNBC’s World Business has sent shock-waves in the media industry. 
 
The Sarawak Report expose can be found here.
CNBC has since withdrawn the World Business show. The BBC has taken similar action, Malaysian Insider reports.

The Insider also reported: “According to Politico, FBC Media is listed in lobbying reports as having paid tens of thousands of dollars to Washington-based lobbying firm APCO in recent years to lobby on behalf of the Malaysian government…

The Insider also reported that records showed that between 2008 and 2009, RM57.7 million was paid by the Prime Minister’s office to FBC Media for the campaign.

When the Sarawak Report expose was first published, I contacted a UK-based media analyst, John Hilley, who is familiar with Malaysian affairs and global media power play. He responded, “You can just see how readily … the big revenue-seeking media are embracing the kind of power-client stuff being put out by FBC, all serving the political-corporate narrative of ‘development’.”

So much for the ‘objectivity’, ‘professionalism’ and ‘balanced journalism’ propounded by these big global media stations.

It just goes to show the extent the global media will go to churn out unquestioning, uncritical propaganda that fits within the framework of corporate media propaganda. It’s a framework that often furthers the interests of MNCs while paying lip service to the people’s struggle for real democracy and economic and environmental justice.

While budget cuts result in spending on real journalistic work being slashed, the production of programmes is increasingly farmed out to private media outfits, whose sources of funding and sponsorship are beneath the public radar (as in the case of FBC).

As a result, it is sometimes hard to figure out whether what you are reading or watching is really news or stuff churned out by some company or public relations outfit. The line between real journalism and advertorials/public relations trash was blurred a long time ago, not just overseas but in some of our local media as well.

And what do the Malaysian leaders implicated by Sarawak Report have to say?