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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A trip too long for poor folk

What used to be a 500-metre trip to adjacent Taman Kanagapuram now involves a 5km drive due to a concrete barricade put up by MBPJ.

PETALING JAYA: Petaling Utama residents are up in arms against Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) over the closure of a trunk road linking Petaling Utama to Taman Kanagapuram.

Parents are now forced to make a 5km drive using the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) to send their children to schools located in Taman Kanagapuram – a trip of less than 500 metres previously.

Block E residents action committee chairman M Sugumaran, who lives in a flat in Petaling Utama, said the road was barricaded on Aug 15 by MBPJ.

“We were told that closure was necessary to fix a broken pipe under the road. There was no such work carried out and the concrete barricade is still there, with just a small opening for motorcycles to move in and out.”

Sugumaran claimed MBPJ officials said several residents in the affluent Taman Kanagapuram complained of traffic congestion in their area due to the existence of the road.

“They also said the crime rate has soared in the residential area as bad hats were using the road. Are they insinuating that we are responsible for the crime rates? It’s ridiculous,” said Sugumaran.

“Parents from Petaling Utama can’t even send their children to the only playground which is located in Taman Kanagapuram due to the barricade,” he added.

Sugumaran criticised the MBPJ for favouring about 50 families in the affluent Taman Kanagapuram area at the expense of 1,000 poor families in Petaling Utama.

FMT spoke to several Petaling Utama residents who echoed Sugumaran’s sentiments over the road closure and hardship they have had to endure the past week.

M Seelan, 43, a resident of Petaling Utama, said he has difficulties sending his children to school and it is was especially inconvenient during inclement weather.

Schoolchildren coming late to school


Housewife M Umadevi vented her frustration on the rich folk of Taman Kanagapuram for making the complaint against Petaling Utama residents, which led to the road closure.

“I’m in my advanced stages of pregnancy and driving 5km to send my children to school is hard. I now walk daily across the opening in the barricade to send them,” she said.

G Kasturi, who runs the kindergarten in Taman Kanagapuram, said the road closure had caused much inconvenience to her students as many get caught up in the traffic using the highway.

“There is traffic congestion at the NPE and Taman Sri Sentosa in the mornings and this road was an alternative to many parents.

“Now, many of my students from Petaling Utama and Puchong are arriving late for class although my lessons start at 8am. Even I was delayed many times,” said
Kasturi.

MBPJ councillor Latheefa Koya said MBPJ would hold a meeting with representatives from both areas after Hari Raya to reach an amicable solution.

“We have decided to reopen the road pending the meeting,” said Latheefa, who said the road was built illegally years ago by an unknown party.

“A decision was made to close the road last year but we did not act on it. Unfortunately, some of our officers took action without notifying us,” she added.

Meanwhile, a resident of Taman Kanagapuram, K Rajaretinam, 58, said he did not see any problems with the existence of the road.

“I don’t know who asked MBPJ to close the road but I will support for the road to be reopened,” said Rajaretinam.

DNA specialist McDonald testifies in Sodomy II

After Australian forensic pathologist Dr David Wells testified yesterday, another foreign expert, DNA specialist Dr Brian McDonald, takes the witness stand in the Sodomy II trial involving Oppostion Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

azlanMcDonald, who is also from Australia, will first answer questions from defence lawyer Ram Karpal and this is likely to take most of the morning.

It will be followed with cross-examination by solicitor-general II Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden, who is lead prosecutor.

Wells was quizzed by Yusof for most parts of yesterday. In his testimony, Wells said that a 30-year-old study stating that sperm retrieved from the rectum can last up to 65 hours should be treated with caution.

At one point, the witness was briefly stumped when asked how a third person could retrieve another person's sperm and planted in the alleged victim's rectum. He said he would leave it to a DNA expert to answer that question.

Later, in replying to questions from defence lawyer Sankara Nair, Wells agreed there could be tear in Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan's rectum should the purported act - as described by the complainant - was "laju and rakus" (fast and furious).

Pusrawi Hospital's Dr Mohamed Osman Abdul Hamid and Hospital Kuala Lumpur doctors have earlier testified that they saw no signs of injury.

LIVE REPORTS


anti-anwar ibrahim demonstration outside KL High Court sodomy II trial8.35am: A group of anti-Anwar supporters wearing yellow T-shirts are outside the Jalan Duta Court Complex where the Sodomy II trial is held at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Repeatedly shouting 'reformasi', they unveil a banner which says 'Selamat Hari Raya Peliwat 2.0' and 'Justice for Saiful'.

8.48am: Prosecution team led by solicitor-general II Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden is in court, as is defence lawyers Ram Karpal and Marissa Regina Christopher Fernando.
Marissa is the daughter of the late Christopher Fernando, who was top defence lawyer in Anwar's first sodomy trial.
8.55am: Also in court is Saiful's lawyer Zamri Idrus. He was absent yesterday.
9.04am: Anwar arrives with wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.
There are still some empty seats in the public gallery, which can fit about 70 people.
9.13am: Johor PKR chief Chua Jui Meng arrives and is seen talking to Anwar, who is standing inside the dock.
9.15am: Court proceeding begins with Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah presiding.

9.16am: Fourth defence witness Dr Brian McDonald takes the witness stand and the examination-in-chief done by defence counsel Ram Karpal...

Suhakam laments plans to amend Act

The Star
by SHAILA KOSHY


KUALA LUMPUR: Suhakam is disappointed that the Government is proceeding with plans to amend the Aboriginal Peoples Act without waiting for the completion of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the middle of next year.

Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said it had asked the Government to delay tabling any amendment pending the conclusion of the inquiry.

“We urge the Government again to defer the process of finalising any new policies and legislation with regard to the customary land of the orang asli for submission to the Cabinet and the National Land Council until all efforts have been made to obtain free, prior and informed consent from all stakeholders, especially the affected orang asli,” he said.

Hasmy said this in response to the Aug 16 announcement by the Department for the Development of Orang Asli that it had concluded discussions with all state governments on the policy to grant land titles to orang asli and would take it up to Cabinet and later to the NLC.

The Star had reported Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee as saying that it had received grievances from many orang asli over the department's announcement, suggesting that the Government had once again failed to consult them in finalising the policy.

Hasmy said Suhakam had in its 2008 annual report reminded the Government of its fiduciary obligation to consult and obtain consent from native communities prior to taking action that might infringe on their native title rights.

He said this was consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia had committed to uphold.

“Also, the Federal Constitution and relevant court decisions recognise and uphold the status of orang asli and their land rights as well as the special relationship between these communities and their land,” he said.

He added that recognition of and protection for native title was also required as part of the constitutional right to livelihood.

Home minister receives death threat, live bullets

(Malaysiakini) Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he received a written death threat and two live bullets by mail today.

"I can confirm that I received two live bullets, posted to my office,” he said told reporters after a breaking of fast function in Kuala Lumpur.

“Threats are common for me. But this is the first time I received one in the form of live bullets," he joked

A member of Hishammuddin's staff informed the media later that the two bullets were concealed inside two holes carved out of a booklet.

The booklet contained a handwritten message detailing the threat but Hishammuddin refused to divulge its content to the media.

"I believe this is a matter for the authorities to handle," he said.

Asked if he had lodged a police report over the matter, he said that the staff who found the articles had already done so.
'Won't affect my duties'
The package was sent to his Putrajaya office through regular mail and was received at about 2pm and was opened by a clerk to one of his special officers.

Hishammuddin said that he was undaunted with the incident and vowed to continue his duties.

"I view this as a serious matter but it will not effect my commitment to my work," he vowed.

The minister dismissed the threat as the actions of desperate parties.

Hishammuddin joins the long list of politicians who have received death threats in the mail, accompanied by live bullets. 

Among those includes DAP chairperson Karpal Singh, former deputy minister S Murugiah and Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua.

The latest incident involved Kulim state assemblyperson Lim Soo Nee, who received a bullet and a note demanding that he does not seek re-election. 

Khir must prove claims

In another development, Hishammuddin had asked former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo to substantiate claims that three ministers had conspired to have him jailed.

"Things like this, it is best to ask the person making the claim. If he is transparent and his allegations has basis, he should bring the matter, which touched on an ongoing trial to the attention of the judiciary," he said.

Yesterday, Khir had dropped a bombshell when he wrote about the conspiracy in his blog. 

Khir has refused to name the trio because he does not have proof but insists that his source is very reliable. 

In his posting, Khir said that one of the minister insist that the former must be jailed in order for BN to retake Selangor. 

Khir is currently facing graft charges. He is accused of receiving inducements in form of a heavily discounted mansion.

Najib must guarantee reforms before polls, says Pakatan

Anwar said today that PR is seeking an assurance from the prime minister (pic) that “he means business.” — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — The federal opposition has demanded a guarantee from Datuk Seri Najib Razak that the Election Commission (EC) will carry out electoral reforms before a general election is called.


Pakatan Rakyat (PR) said today that the prime minister’s insistence that the timing of polls was not bound to a parliamentary select committee on electoral improvements raised doubts over whether “he means business.”

However, with just six weeks to go before the polls panel is to be formed by Dewan Rakyat, the opposition pact said it has not decided if a failure to offer such an assurance will see PR decline to join what Barisan Nasional (BN) hopes will be a bipartisan committee.

“There is no decision to boycott but we have made it abundantly clear that the onus is on the government to show good faith.

“The EC must take immediate action and there must be an assurance from the prime minister that he means business ... that elections will only be held after the EC has taken measures recommended by the select committee,” Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told reporters after a PR leadership meeting.

Najib made a major concession to Bersih when he announced the electoral reform panel some five weeks after tens of thousands poured into the capital on July 9 to support Bersih 2.0’s call for free and fair elections.

During that time, he came under heavy fire from international media who criticised his administration’s handling of the rally, where nearly 1,700 were arrested, scores injured and one ex-soldier died.

But widely expected to call a general election ahead of BN’s mandate expiring on April 28, 2013, Najib said last week that the timing of polls would not be bound to the select committee which will sit for six months.

Anwar added today that not only must the panel submit its recommendations but the EC must also implement them before Parliament is dissolved.

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu also said that the EC should begin immediate reforms, as some of Bersih’s eight-point demands did not need to be discussed by lawmakers, such as the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting, an extension of the campaign period and the cleaning up the electoral roll.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang also cautioned BN not to use the select committee “as an excuse for non-action” or “a formula for delaying tactics.”

The opposition coalition further demanded a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look into its claim that “hundreds of thousands” of foreigners have been given citizenship and the right to vote.

“We have asked the home minister to act immediately and clarify on a national security issue of instant citizenships being given to hundreds of thousands of foreigners.

“The Pakatan Rakyat committee of MPs demands an RCI on citizenship,” PKR de facto leader Anwar said.
The opposition has repeatedly claimed to have proof of at least 1,600 permanent residents being given citizenships and subsequently, added to the electoral roll.

It had demanded an emergency sitting of Parliament to debate the issue before Najib announced the select committee on electoral reform.

Poser over sperm survival: 36 or 65 hours?

An Australian forensic expert agrees that sperm cells can be discovered inside a person’s body up to 65 hours.

KUALA LUMPUR: An Australian forensic expert agrees today that sperm cells can be discovered inside a person’s body up to 65 hours after sexual intercourse when testifying in the Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial.

Dr David Lawrence Noel Wells concurred with lead prosecutor Solicitor-General II Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden when the latter pointed to a United Kingdom study published in the “Forensic Science International” journal in 1982.

This contradicted Well’s testimony yesterday which stated that sperm could only survive up to 36 hours.

However, Wells, the head of forensic medicine at the Victoria Institute of Medicine, quickly cautioned that he, as well as most of those experts in his field, would put “reservations” on that finding as it was the only published case for over 30 years.

“This particular 1982 paper is often quoted and it is quite depressing that in 30 years there’s only one case. I would like to hear of one other case. The question is, how much weight should we put on this? Should we base all of our forensic findings on a single untested case?” asked Wells.

Mohd Yusof also referred to an article in “Clinical Forensic Medicine” by WDS Mclay. The paper said research showed sperm may be identified and rectal swabs taken up to three days after anal intercourse even when defecation has occurred.

The article also suggested that samples could be obtained even if an individual has showered. However, Wells stuck to his previous stand.

“From my experience, to get an extraction after more than 20 to 36 hours is very rare. I have never heard of such a case. The single case was in 1982. The question is how much weight do you put on that case,” said the expert in the field of sexual assault cases.

Wells: It is exceedingly rare to get any results beyond 20 to 36 hours.
Mohd Yusof: Then why do you think doctors suggest that swabs can be taken from the anus after three days up to 65 hours? This sample can even be taken when the victim has showered.
Wells: The article you are quoting from also refers to the single 1982 case.
Mohd Yusof: But can you say it’s not possible.
Wells: No I can’t say.

Doctor stumped

Wells added that “in medicine, you sometimes have to be realistic. Why don’t we collect toxicological samples from patients who consumed something two to three months ago? There’s a reason for it”.

“I would not base a scientific premise on a single case; with some confidence I can say (in Anwar’s case) that already we have a sample that is not dried and not frozen and kept at room temperature; the possibility is very small that you can extract a foreign DNA,” said Wells.

Wells added that there have been numerous attempts to test for sperm specimens 36 hours later, with “zero” results.

Mohd Yusof also stumped the doctor when he asked whether sperm could be planted without the original sample from a person.

Mohd Yusof: If sperm contaminated the exhibit, the person who contaminated the sample must have possessed the sperm of the person?
Wells: (Long pause). This is unusual. I would ask the DNA expert though it is possible the DNA is different from that of the sperm.
Mohd Yusof: But if someone has planted the sperm sample, that person must have had on him that sperm?
Wells: Yes

Not odd not to have injury

Earlier, Wells said the majority of sexual assault victims would not show signs of injury to their genitalia.

He agreed that “less than half” of all complaints of sexual assault have injuries to the genital/anal areas.

He was replying when cross-examined by Mohd Yusof.
“So, it is not odd if there is no injury on Saiful,” said Mohd Yusof, to which Wells concurred.

Wells agreed with excerpts from a medical journal read out by Mohd Yusof that the vast majority of injuries to the genitalia or anus are caused by penetration of a blunt instrument, penis, finger or inanimate object and that a number of reasons could explain the absence of signs (of injuries).
The reasons could include using lubricant, consensual act, the amount of force employed and delay in reporting, which would also allow the injuries to fade, said Wells.
However, during re-examination by Anwar’s defence counsel Sankara Nair, Wells agreed that there is an increased likelihood of injuries with the increased use of force by the alleged sexual attacker.
Sankara said: “Saiful (complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan) had said that he felt a lot of pain. He claimed it was ‘laju and rakus’ (fast and rough), it could have caused tears.”
On Monday, Anwar denied the charge of sodomy against him, saying that he never had any sexual relations with Saiful. Giving unsworn evidence from the accused dock, he called Saiful’s allegation a “blatant and vicious lie” and a “vile and despicable attempt at character assassination”.
On May 16, High Court judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah ordered Anwar to enter his defence after ruling that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against the latter.
He ruled that Saiful was a “credible” and “truthful” witness whose testimony was corroborated by the evidence of expert witnesses, including doctors and chemists.
The trial resumes tomorrow. Another Australian DNA specialist Dr Brian McDonald is expected to take the stand.

Pakatan has failed Indians, say DAP members

It was a raw deal for the community under the BN while it is no deal at all in Pakatan run states

GEORGE TOWN: The consensus among DAP’s ethnic Indian members is that the Pakatan Rakyat state governments have failed to address many contentious community issues.

They felt that Pakatan governments should have done more for Indians pertaining to public sector employment, housing, business opportunities, Tamil schools and Hindu temples.

Their disgruntlement was evident at a closed-door meeting among 50 DAP Indian members, including elected representatives, at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur last week.

“After three years in power, Pakatan governments in Penang, Selangor and Kedah are doing only a ‘BN’ for Indians,” a member, who attended the meeting, told FMT.

Like Barisan Nasional, he said Pakatan governments have handed out small funds and allotted land for a handful of Tamil schools and Hindu temples “here and there.”

The member claimed certain allotted lands were actually set aside by previous BN administration, such as for Azad and Ladang Batu Kawan Tamil Schools in Penang.

When BN lost in 2008, he said the newly elected Pakatan government simply signed on the dotted lines and passed on the lands.

“But the state government claims that they are doing great for Indians. They are merely emulating BN’s previous policy … there is no difference,” said the member from Selangor.

DAP national vice-chairman and Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran organised the meeting, which was officiated by party veteran Lim Kit Siang.

Penang DAP deputy chairman and deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, Bagan Dalam assemblyman A Tanasekharan, Perak DAP deputy chairman and Tronoh assemblyman V Sivakumar, Perak DAP vice-chairman and Sungkai assemblyman A Sivanesan and former ISA detainee V Ganapathirau attended the meeting.

A DAP elected representative told the meeting that state governments in Selangor, Penang and Kedah have failed to provide sufficient employment opportunities for ethnic Indians in the public sector.

He said that recruitment of Indians into the state government-controlled departments, corporations and government link companies (GLCs) was negligible and noted that employment of Indians in local councils “was virtually non-existent.”

“Indians were not asking for white collar management jobs, just blue collar work. But even such jobs were not adequately provided for them,” said the state representative.

Form task force

Another recognisable Selangor politician said the incompetence of Indian state representatives and parliamentarians to form a Pakatan task force to look after the community’s affairs was the biggest failure of all.

If only the task force had been formed three years, he said, Indians in Pakatan would not have to ‘fight’ with the state governments each time to provide benefits to the community.

He concurred with the general perception that “it was a raw deal under the BN while it is no deal at all in Pakatan for Indians.”

Under BN, he said, MIC as an Indian party “would somehow get something reserved for Indians.”
A DAP branch leader suggested that it was not too late to form the task force to look after Indian interests.

“We can form it now, do some research and draw up blueprints for Pakatan governments to implement in their respective states,” he said.

He pointed out that a 1998 socio-economic report on Penang Indians prepared by Socio-Economic Research Institute can be used as the basis in Penang.

He said it was unacceptable to keep on saying that Pakatan can only deliver for Indians after capturing Putrajaya

“Pakatan state governments actually can do a lot right now, especially allotting land for Tamil schools.”

Syariah lawyer raps emotion-fanning media

He says their articles and broadcasts pose a danger to his clients, the 12 Muslims at the centre of the JAIS-DUMC row.

PETALING JAYA: A syariah lawyer today reprimanded the media for fanning sentiments against the 12 Muslims questioned by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) over their attendance at a church Thanksgiving dinner.

Muhamad Burok, who is representing the 12, also warned that anyone accusing his clients of apostasy could be cited for “takfir”, the syariah crime of falsely accusing a Muslim of having left his religion.

The 12 were hauled up during a JAIS raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) on Aug 3. JAIS claimed that it was acting on a complaint about proselytising activities taking place during the dinner.

JAIS summoned the 12 for questioning last Monday.

In a statement released today, Muhamad accused print and electronic media organisations of inciting tension among Malaysians through “irresponsible” reporting.

“Some of the publications are so irresponsible as to disclose the identities and personal details of our clients,” he said. “This has exposed them not only to public ridicule and contempt but also subjected them to harassment in a manner that poses danger to their personal safety and security.”

JAIS has stated that its investigation is confidential, but the identities of the 12 and a six-minute video clip of the raid have surfaced on pro-Umno blogs. The revelations have sparked strong criticism of the 12.
Muhamad called on the media to act with “reason and wisdom”.

He also asked that the investigation agencies to maintain the “highest standards of professionalism, integrity and confidentiality”.

“Our clients do not deserve to be treated with scorn and ridicule, especially during the month of Ramadhan,” he said.

“As their syariah lawyer, I should remind everyone to refrain from accusing any Muslim person as murtad (apostate), which can be tantamount to the offence of ‘takfir’.”

The punishment for takfir is a fine of up to RM5,000 or three years’ imprisonment or both.

“Let us all act with introspection and circumspection so that we may assist in the administration of justice in accordance with the Federal Constitution and the rule of law,” Muhamad said.

“Let us pray that this storm that has caused a strain in our community relationship will pass.”

Multiracial Malaysia caught at economic crossroads


By Jennifer Pak, BBC News 

Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers have become a symbol of rapid development - but can Malaysia's rise to prosperity overcome cultural, religious and economic challenges?
Malaysia is a complex country where race and religion are inextricably linked.

More than half of its 28 million people are Malay and, according to the constitution, must be Muslim.

Despite boasts about the country's diversity, there is little interaction between the different races, leading to an escalation of tensions in recent years.

Young Muslims in Malaysia are suffering from an identity crisis, says Amin Rahman from the Young Muslims Project.

The 29-year-old says he grew up bombarded with the message that Malay-Muslims need to protect their own interests from the Chinese and Indians.

That view is now being challenged by a stronger opposition party and easier access to alternative news sources.

"Suddenly we realize that Islam can be more inclusive of other races," Amin tells me.

"It is a lot of re-learning and re-understanding of our principles and our beliefs."

But many scholars say the ethnic divide is entrenched by an affirmative action policy favouring Malays.

Malay priority
Although they make up the majority, Malays are consistently poorer compared to other ethnic groups.

This led to race riots in 1969, in which dozens of people died and a state of emergency was called.


As an ethnic Chinese, Tony Pua was not allowed into the same elite schools as his Malay friends
To correct this wealth imbalance, the government gives Malays and indigenous groups privileges over ethnic minorities such as cheaper housing and priority allocation of university scholarships and civil service jobs.

The policy has created a new Malay middle class. But after four decades of affirmative action, the average Malay family still earns less than ethnic minorities.

Prime Minister Najib Razak admits the delivery of the policy has been manipulated to benefit only a handful of people.

He has pledged to revamp the scheme but insists affirmative action for Malays needs to stay.

This continues to breed resentment among many Chinese and Indians, who say the policy treats them like second-class citizens.

Tony Pua of the Democratic Action Party says this feeling begins at a young age.

As an ethnic Chinese, he saw Malay classmates who excelled sent off to attend elite schools that were not open to him.

Later, he was rejected for a government scholarship despite achieving grades good enough to study at Oxford University in the UK.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Our racial, religious mix can be a wonderful asset - you have the whole United Nations here”

Ramon Navaratnam
Malaysian economist
While the government says the number of scholarships they give out corresponds to the ethnic make-up in the country, Tony believes there is sufficient anecdotal evidence that Malays with lower grades are getting scholarships over high-achieving Chinese and Indians.

Aside from the quota system, he says the schools themselves have also been politicised.

"The history books today try to eliminate the influences of any races other than Malays in the founding or building of the country," he says.

But it wasn't always like this. Tony remembers learning about the contribution of all three races in history class as a child.

"That entire chapter has now been reduced to one line," he says.

Ethnic exodus
Ethnic minorities showed their discontent in the 2008 election by largely turning away from the governing Barisan Nasional coalition, denying it a two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time in four decades.

Since then the prime minister has campaigned for unity under the slogan of 1Malaysia.

The message has suffered some setbacks within his party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and among his core Malay-Muslim supporters.

Senior Malay civil servants and teachers have been accused of making derogatory comments about other races, calling ethnic Chinese and Indians "immigrants" despite the fact that many have been settled in the country for generations.


Many ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians are voting with their feet to seek fairer policies abroad
It will take time to transform the mentality of the party's three million members, says UMNO youth information chief Reezal Merican Naina Merican, who believes the party needs "a new mould of thinking."

"Gone are the days when the government was always right," he says.

Meanwhile, many ethnic minorities are voting with their feet.

In 2010, a World Bank report estimated that around one million Malaysians have left the country. A third of these are well educated and most are Chinese and Indians.

"Discontent with Malaysia's inclusiveness policies is a critical factor," senior economist Philip Schellekens writes.

This outflow of talent casts doubts on whether the country can achieve its goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020.

For now, it is stuck in the middle income level, and losing competitiveness to neighbouring countries in the region.

There is a sense of frustration among economists like former government minister Ramon Navaratnam.

"Our racial, religious mix can be a wonderful asset because you have the whole United Nations here," he says.

"Yet we do not know how to maximize or optimise it because of political expediency."

Ramon believes Malaysia will eventually become a high income economy.

It might just take longer than the country's leaders had planned.

Chinese Firms Win Indian Power Contracts


Image
Can China be of help?
China’s power generation producers winning contracts under Indian noses
Chinese power equipment makers have lately been eating their Indian counterparts’ lunch, winning contracts in India’s electricity sector over domestic suppliers who are unable for various reasons to meet demand.

In a move that could further deepen China’s presence in India’s power generation business, Chinese banks have approached New Delhi for permission to finance at soft rates more than US$50 billion of power equipment purchases by Indian energy producers.

While the equipment-starved domestic producers are supporting the move, domestic suppliers such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) are not happy about it.

The Chinese financiers meanwhile are hoping for quick clearance of the yuan as an accepted currency for external commercial borrowing (ECB) by Indian power firms. Presently, Indian external borrowings are denominated in US and Australian dollars, yen and euro.

India is targeting 100,000MW of additional electricity capacity in the next five years and needs investment of over US$400 billion in the power sector to tide over acute electricity deficits. India’s present power capacity is 170,000MW.

Supporting China

There is considerable backing among India’s power producers to encourage Chinese equipment suppliers, given the inability of domestic suppliers to meet the requirement due to insufficient capacity.

The state-owned monopoly BHEL’s 15,000 MW annual power equipment generation capacity is not enough to meet the power producers’ demand. The company, sitting on a massive Rs1.5 trillion order book, is also seen as slow in delivery. On the other hand Chinese firms such as Shanghai Electric Corp, SEPCO Electric Power, Dongfang Electric Corp and Harbin, boast large capacity and advantages of economies of scale that make their products cheaper.

Further, loans from China are estimated to be 200-300 basis points lower than local rupee debts from Indian banks. The cost arbitrage has widened in the wake of the rise in domestic interest rates from 9 percent to 13 percent, given New Delhi’s tight monetary policy to control inflation.

Reliance Power, the winner of three ultra-mega-power projects of 4000MW each, has thus purchased US$10 billion worth of coal-fired power generators, boilers and turbines from Shanghai Electric Corp, enough to generate 30,000 MW.

The company is tying up finance through leading Chinese banks such as Bank of China, China Development Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and The Export-Import Bank of China.

Dongfang Electric Corp, China’s third-biggest power equipment maker, has meanwhile won US$3 billion in orders for power generating equipment from the Indian firm Abhijeet Group.

Even state-owned NTPC has said it is open to contracting with overseas vendors, including Chinese firms, to meet its targets. This is a major change in strategy as government entities usually promote local industry as a part of overall public policy.

India’s biggest power producer NTPC is in the process of handing equipment orders of a whopping Rs1.5 trillion (US$33 billion plus) for its power projects in this fiscal (2011-12, ending March).

Local Resistance

BHEL, India’s biggest power equipment producer, along with engineering major L&T have been lobbying with New Delhi to put in place “remedial action to counter the threat posed by Chinese power equipment suppliers” by imposing duties on Chinese imports to “create a level playing field.”

BHEL has been arguing that while Chinese equipment maybe cheaper, local equipment is more efficient. There have also been problems of maintenance and after sales support linked to Chinese supplies, the company argues.

BP Rao, the chairman of BHEL, said earlier this month that “any loan with soft rates by Chinese banks is welcome. But in the process, the country should not kill the domestic industry and source substandard goods.”

Under domestic pressure, New Delhi has already extended excise duty exemptions to local players. The government has also extended a tax holiday by a year for power firms. Both BHEL and Larsen &Toubro have welcomed the changes.

Last week, minister of heavy industries and public enterprises Praful Patel said in Parliament, “Power plants set up with Chinese equipment have not shown better performance than those using equipment supplied by BHEL.”

However, market forces seem to be playing out differently from the government’s assessment. Chinese firms look set to play a big part in India’s enormous power generation capacity plans provided some of the domestic coal supply bottlenecks are also overcome.

Security and strategic reasons have resulted in Chinese telecom players and investors in ports being kept out of India. Indian firms will however need to be on their toes to take on the muscle delivered by the Chinese in several other spheres, including power equipment.

Companies such as BHEL will have to move out of their comfort zones with new power equipment manufacturing capacities that are also emerging in India due to joint ventures such as Bharat Forge-Alstom, Ansaldo-GB Power, Toshiba-JSW, Thermax-Babcock & Wilcox and BGR-Hitachi.

(Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at sidsri@yahoo.com)

Money, money, money — The Malaysian Insider

AUG 24 — When all else fails; when policies flounder; when rumbling from within grows louder; when the reform agenda stutters in the face of resistance from interest groups, throw money around in the hope of hushing up the protestations.

This strategy was used by Tun Abdullah Badawi after his fitness to lead Malaysia was questioned by Tun Dr Mahathir Muhammad and after his early promise of reforming the country dissipated into flip-flops, missteps and pandering to his party’s demands.

He increased the salary of civil servants and even put cash in the pocket of Malaysians through a one-off RM600 payment.

Underlying this move was the view that even though the ground had soured on him considerably by 2007, putting money into the hands of Malaysians would make them put their bitterness aside and vote him in again.

We know how that strategy played out.

By March 2008, he called elections and Malaysians dealt his Barisan Nasional (BN) its bloodiest nose and paved the way for Datuk Seri Najib Razak to take over the reins.

Maybe what’s disappointing about politicians or leaders using money as the panacea of weak rule is that it reflects a belief that we can be bought.

Najib is doing the same now.

His advisors have probably told him that the ground has probably soured a bit from earlier this year.
The PM’s position has not been helped by flip flops, the mishandling of Bersih, and the inability of his administration to rein in chauvinism, etc.

He has now announced that RM1.4 billion will be given to around 500,000 underprivileged recipients, including senior citizens, the disabled and widows of army and police personnel.

The allocation, to be disbursed monthly under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s newly-launched initiative called Program Kebajikan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (KAR1SMA), was increased by RM200 million from last year’s RM1.2 billion for 424,000 identified recipients.
So here’s the thing.

It is only RM200 million more than the year before.

Will this make a real difference to those in need?

Expect more largesse from the government as the prime minister tries to sweeten the ground ahead of snap elections expected soon.

The question is will history repeat itself?

Govt should stop interfering with foreign lawyers' rights

The Sun 
by Hemananthani Sivanandam

PETALING JAYA (Aug 23, 2011): The Bar Council today urged the government to stop interfering with the rights of foreign lawyers to meet with their local clients in respect of foreign legal proceedings.

In a statement, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said it is counter-productive for the government to turn away foreign lawyers who take up causes that are “unpopular” with the government.

“This lack of respect for the independence of lawyers does not bode well for the international reputation of Malaysia,” said Lim.

He was referring to the recent action by the government on prohibiting UK-based lawyer Imran Khan from entering Malaysia.

Khan had traveled from London to Kuala Lumpur to meet with his clients, speak to various parties about his clients’ case and gather further information about the marginalisation of the Indian community in Malaysia.

This is the subject of a class-action law suit by the Indian community in Malaysia against the British Government.

However, Khan was prevented from entering Malaysia on the basis that he was a “prohibited immigrant”.

Lim said the government should state which particular provision of section 8(3) of the Immigration Act 1959/1963 Khan violated, which resulted in him being declared a “prohibited immigrant”.

“Pursuant to section 8(4), the burden of proof that any person seeking to enter Malaysia is not a prohibited immigrant shall lie upon that person, but this is rendered impossible if Khan was never informed of the specific allegation against him,” explained Lim.

He said Khan’s prohibition follows the earlier deportation of William Bourdon, the Paris-based lawyer for human rights non-governmental organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

SUARAM has initiated legal proceedings in France in relation to the purchase by the Malaysian Government of two Scorpene submarines.

“The crude manner of Bourdon’s expulsion and Khan’s prohibition gives rise to speculation of the motive underlying the government’s action, and begs the question of why the government appears afraid of these two foreign legal proceedings.

“In both instances the government breached the principle of natural justice, a foundational element of administrative law.

“By failing to inform either person of the specific grounds for his deportation or prohibition, and by refusing to afford either of them an opportunity to challenge the order, the government failed to uphold a basic tenet of administrative law, thus breaching their human rights,” said Lim.