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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hard-won Afghan women's rights may be lost in Taliban peace deal

Afghan women look set to be deemed second-class citizens in light of clerics' recommendations. Picture: AFP

THE Afghanistan government appears to be scaling back its support for women's rights to advance peace talks with the Taliban ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghan lawmakers and human-rights activists have warned.

A government-appointed council of 150 leading Muslim clerics last week urged the strict application of a conservative and literalist interpretation of Islamic law regarding women.

The council said Afghan law should require women to wear the veil and forbid them from mixing with men in the work place or traveling without a male chaperone.

"Men are fundamental and women are secondary," the Ulama Council said in a statement on Friday, according to a translation by the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

President Hamid Karzai published the statement on his website, fueling speculation that he backed the conservative clerics' position.

The Ulama Council's recommendations also included a number of other declarations that seemed to support Karzai's political positions, including backing peace talks with the Taliban and urging the handover of US-controlled prisons to Afghan government supervision.

"This is a political statement; this is not an Islamic statement," said Shukria Barakzai, a female lawmaker from the capital, Kabul.

The council's positions are relatively standard orthodox interpretations of Islamic law, similar to those that would be issued by mainstream Muslim clerics throughout the Islamic world.

But such positions would mark a significant step backwards for women in Afghanistan were they to be enshrined in Afghan law.

They also come at a particularly jittery moment in Afghanistan.

The US and its allies are set to pull most of their troops from the country by 2014.

The US and Mr Karzai both say they are intent on pushing forward with peace talks with the Taliban - a movement that has a long history of oppressing women - although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged that the peace outreach won't mean backsliding on advances in women's rights.

Women's rights advocates fear that any compromise with the Taliban as part of a peace deal could undercut gains they have made in the past decade, including the right to vote, hold public office and get an education.

"The future of women's rights in Afghanistan is more unpredictable that at any stage over the last 10 years," the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization concluded in a report published on Tuesday.

"Most of women's important achievements over the last decade are likely to be reversed."

Mr Karzai told a news conference that he supported the Ulama Council's statements, but said such recommendations would actually strengthen the status of women's rights in Afghanistan.

"They declared the values of Islam and the principles for how to strengthen the position of women in accordance with Sharia," he said.

Pakistani Hindus seek safety in India

Every month about eight to 10 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan. Most of them are well-off, a New Delhi official says

By Hasan Mansoor

KARACHI: Preetam Das is a good doctor with a hospital job and a thriving private clinic, yet all he thinks about is leaving Pakistan, terrified about a rise in killings and kidnappings targeting Hindus.

A successful professional, he lives in megacity Karachi with his wife and two children, but comes from Kashmore, a district in the north of Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh.

His family has lived there for centuries and in 1947 when the sub-continent split between India, a majority Hindu state, and Pakistan, a homeland for Muslims, Das’ grandparents chose to stay with the Muslims.

They fervently believed the promise of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah that religious minorities would be protected. Sixty years later, their grandson says life in Kashmore has become unbearable.

“The situation is getting worse every day,” he says.

Two of his uncles have been kidnapped and affluent Hindus are at particular risk from abduction gangs looking for ransom, he says.

Rights activists say the climate is indicative of progressive Islamisation over the last 30 years that has fuelled an increasing lack of tolerance to religious minorities, too often considered second class citizens.

Das says the only thing keeping him in Pakistan is his mother.

“She has flatly refused to migrate, which hinders my plans. I can’t go without her,” he said.

Hindus make up 2.5 percent of the 174 million people living in the nuclear-armed Muslim nation. Over 90 percent live in Sindh, where they are generally wealthy and enterprising, making them easy prey for criminal gangs.

More people are leaving

An official at the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi who declined to be named said: “Every month about eight to 10 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan. Most of them are well-off.”

He had no comment on whether the number was on the rise, but Hindu community groups in Pakistan say more people are leaving because of kidnappings, killings and even forced conversions of girls to Islam.

“Two of my brothers have migrated to India and an uncle to the UAE,” said Jay Ram, a farmer in Sindh’s northern district of Ghotki.

“It’s becoming too difficult to live here. Sindhis are the most tolerant community in the country vis-a-vis religious harmony, but deteriorating law and order is forcing them to move unwillingly,” he added.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council and a former lawmaker for Sindh province, said Hindus are picked on by kidnappers and that their daughters are subject to forced conversions to Islam.

“Every now and then we get reports of families migrating. It’s getting worse now. People are extremely harassed and are forced to leave their homeland but our rulers are shamelessly idle,” he told AFP.

Rights activists also say Hindus in Sindh are discriminated against.

“Recently 37 members of five Hindu families migrated to India from Thul town owing to discrimination while three Hindus, including a doctor, were murdered in Shikarpur district,” said Rubab Jafri, who heads Sindh’s Human Rights Forum.

“Lots of violent incidents are happening daily. Most go unreported, which shows vested interests are trying to force Hindus to leave Pakistan.”

‘No massive migrations’

According to the Pakistan Hindu Seva, a community welfare organisation, at least 10 families have migrated from Sindh every month since 2008, mostly to India, but in the last 10 months, 400 families have left.

Another survey last year by the local Scheduled Caste Rights Movement said more than 80 percent of Hindu families complained that Muslims discriminated against them by using different utensils when serving them at food stalls.

“Hindu migration is a brain-drain for Pakistan as most of them are doctors, engineers, agriculturists, businessmen and intellectuals,” Jafri said.

But the provincial authorities are reluctant to recognise a problem.

“I do admit that law and order in some districts of Sindh is quite bad, but it is bad for everyone and not just my community, the Hindus,” Mukesh Kumar Chawla, provincial minister for excise and taxation, told AFP.

“Hindus do not migrate in flocks as has been claimed and those who migrate are going abroad for a better fortune,” he said.


[main pix from, showing Hindus praying in Pakistan]

‘What are you sorry for, Najib?’

Kita president and former law minister Zaid Ibrahim says Najib must be specific about what he was apologising for.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak must explain the faults of Barisan Nasional for which he has apologised for, said Kita president Zaid Ibrahim.

While he appreciated the premier’s gesture, the former law minister said the people have the right to know the specifics of the apology.

“It’s a good thing as no other premier has apologised before but he must also rectify the mistakes,” he told a press conference at his residence here.

On Sunday, Najib extended an apology on behalf of BN for mistakes which led the people to deal a heavy electoral blow to the ruling coalition in the previous polls.

“I believe we should not be arrogant. In a parliamentary democracy, we have to subject ourselves to the power of the people. We must have made mistakes for the people to reject us,” he had said.

The next day, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said there was no need to list BN’s mistakes as it was a matter of the past.

‘Reprimand arrogant Muhyiddin’

Zaid said if Najib was apologising for BN’s arrogance, the premier should advise his ministers to be humble in their conduct.

“But the very next day of his apology, Muhyiddin arrogantly said that there was no need to list the mistakes. Najib should reprimand him. Remember that the people are watching,” he added.

On another development, Zaid agreed with former finance minister Daim Zainuddin’s statement that the prime minister should not hold the finance portfolio.

“It’s a good idea. In fact, the prime minister should not hold any other portfolio as his department is a powerful ministry by itself,” he said.

On Sunday, Daim told an interview with the China Press that the prime minister should not hold the finance portfolio as in during the Asian financial crisis since the meltdown was over.

Daim added that by holding the finance portfolio, the PM would have too much on his plate as he also served as the BN chief.

“The second finance minister post was added to handle the (1997) economic crisis. Now the crisis period has gone; we have both finance and second finance minister at the same time. Who is the real decision-maker?” he had said.

Zaid said that many prime ministers of a democratic nation do not hold other portfolios as it would undermine the need to separate executive powers.

“Even in New Zealand, where there are more sheep than humans, the prime minister does not hold a separate portfolio,” he said.

Perkasa: Anti-govt blogs funded by US

The US is secretly behind blogs critical of the Malaysian government, Perkasa said.

KUALA LUMPUR: Blogs critical of the government are funded by either the United States or other foreign powers, a Malay extremist group alleged.

However, Selangor Perkasa chairman Abdullah Mansor said that the group had no proof over these allegations.

“We cannot pinpoint the blogs (involved), but whatever blogs (there are) against the government, they have an agenda. Almost all the blogs. They have a (common) networking, we know that.”

“When they say one issue, everybody will say the same, and we know who they are.”

“Whether they are funded by the US or agent, whatever it is, (they are) funded by foreign [powers]. But I cannot say who, because I cannot give proof on who they are,” he told reporters.

Abdullah said this after Perkasa members had lodged a report at the Dang Wangi police district headquarters today.

They based their report on an Utusan Malaysia news story where former PKR members claimed that foreign powers supposedly gave Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim aid in the form of funds and “training”.

According to a Perkasa press statement, the aid came from US-based groups such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

German NGOs, the statement added, also helped Anwar.

Asia Must Talk Sense on Israel and Iran

Not what we need in the Middle East right now
India, China, need to slow those who want to go to war in the Middle East
If major Asian countries headed by Chin and India want a common cause, they could usefully make plain their concern at the way US policy is being pushed towards war by the Christian and Jewish extremists who set the agenda for public discussion of policy towards Iran and Syria.

Not content with having started two useless wars against predominantly Muslim countries, now the US is being urged, by no less than former Presidential candidate John McCain to bomb Syria, and by most of the current Republican contenders for the top office (Ron Paul is the only exception) to help Israel bomb Iran back to the pre-nuclear age.

All this is doubtless encouraging to Israel’s extreme right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who could well take the opportunity to start a war prior to the US election and force a reluctant US President Barack Obama to offer support. The Israeli lobby, backed by Christian fundamentalists, has long been the tail that wags the dog of US Mideast foreign policy.

Is it not in the Bible that the Jews were chosen by God as his instrument on earth? Is it the Bible that makes the US contemplate war to stop an ancient and major nation acquiring nuclear capability when it never did so with North Korea or Pakistan and earlier encouraged the imposed state of Israel to develop the only nuclear bomb in the region?

There are several issues of great importance here to Asia which need to be spelled out before worse befalls the world. Most immediately is the issue of the shock to oil supplies and prices that an attack on Iran would bring. India and China as huge oil importers have a legitimate interest in energy security. Both have already indicated that they have no intention of joining the boycott of Iran’s oil exports but they need to go a lot further to make it plain just how dangerous US unconditional support for Israel has become to the world.

Secondly they should make it plain to the US that they view negatively its pronouncements on human rights and its denunciations of Muslim and other religious extremism when the US itself is beholden to Christian religious radicalism. At this moment challengers for the presidency compete not just to show off their beliefs but to try to outbid each other on the importance of Christianity to American life and policy. So much for the doctrine of the secular state and the rights of the non-Christians, who probably total 100 million in the US alone.

American anti-Muslim sentiment has exacerbated the global problems initiated by extremists in Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. It also keeps America’s Muslims quiet. Jews flaunt their voting power and money in the interests of US protection for Israel and its illegal settlements while Muslims, who probably now outnumber Jews in the US, are required to keep a low profile for fear of social isolation and worse. The US should start by practicing what it preaches before speaking up in support for non-Muslims in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thirdly, Asia should make it plain that nothing helps the mullahs in Iran sustain their brutal rule more than the hostility towards Tehran drummed up by the west. This was the same arrogant and ignorant West which encouraged Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran in the hope of toppling the mullahs.

In fact it did quite the opposite, making them into nationalist heroes in a war which cost half a million Iranian lives. Almost all Iranians, whatever their political position, believe that their nation has as much right as China or India, let alone Pakistan, North Korea, India and Israel, to nuclear capability and with or without Israeli or US bombs will get to that point quite soon.

Turnout at the recent admittedly rigged parliamentary election in Iran showed that the mullahs can still use foreign hostility to rally the country despite the regime’s abysmal record of social oppression and economic failure.

Finally Asia could make it plain that Europe’s last colony in Asia, created by British imperialism and sustained by US money, domestic politics and strategic interests, can only survive if it conforms to the norms that are expected of other nations.

Israel’s settlements in Palestinian lands and refusal to make any meaningful progress in achieving a two-state solution is surely bringing forward the day when Jews will be a minority in this land and it will be ever more difficult for them to pursue the racist, apartheid-type policies which now prevail. It will be forced to become a plural state, not one based on religious fervor and racial and historical mythology in which non-Jews are second class citizens

Unfortunately for Israel the enthusiasm of ignorant and religion-driven US politicians has given its own nastier politicians an almost blank check – money, advanced weapons, Security Council vetoes etc etc.

With US power now beginning to wane, and its focus beginning to shift towards the Pacific, now is a good time for major Asian nations to speak up in their own interests, in the interests of Muslim and plural Asia – and ultimately for the interests of Israel’s own survival.

Shamsubahrin hands over SMS transcript to MACC

Please, PAS & PKR, can we ABUkan Labuan?

Since I got banned from entering Sabah last December, I’ve taken to Labuan to carry on my work.
A report in the Daily Express might give you some insight into the kind of work going on there.
And in the course of that work, I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and working with some of the leaders and members from PKR, DAP and SAPP in Labuan.
The parliamentary seat of Labuan is currently held by UMNO / BN.
In the 2004 12th GE, UMNO’s Suhaili Abdul Rahman, the incumbent, garnered 11,087 votes against 3,186 votes that went the way of PAS candidate Matusin Abdul Rahman to retain the seat for UMNO /BN.
Voter turnout that year was 14,761 or 68.59%, with 488 spoilt votes.
The breakdown of voters according to ethnicity in 2004 was :
Chinese: 25.20% Indians: 2.20  Bumiputra Muslims: 37%  Others: 35.60%
In the 12th GE, Suhaili Abdul Rahman was dropped and replaced by Yusoff Mahal, who was involved in a 3-corner contest involving PAS candidate Matusin Abdul Rahman and independent candidate Lau Seng Kiat.
Yusoff Mahal won, polling 10,471 votes, Lau came in second with 2,014 votes, whilst Matusin managed only 1,106 votes, losing his deposit.
Voter turnout was 14,149 or 68.1%, with 311 spoilt votes.
Why did the PAS candidate fare the worst of the 3 candidates?
I’m told by the locals, including some of the Muslims, that the lifestyle of the majority in Labuan simply does not favour a PAS candidate.
Notice how in Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur in the 12th GE, of the 11 parliamentary seats there, PAS only contested and won in only 1 seat, that is, Titiwangsa?
Might this have anything to do, however slight, with the lifestyle of a large number of KLites, including those who profess Islam as their faith who, then, at least, might have been more ready to dump BN if the alternative was a non-PAS candidate?
The locals I spoke to in Labuan feel that given local sentiment, a non-PAS Malay candidate has a better chance of displacing UMNO / BN come the next elections.
Specifically, they have stated a preference for a Malay candidate from PKR.
The DAP, PKR and SAPP members and leaders I spoke to share this view, with one proviso.
PKR in Labuan, they tell me, is split into 2 factions.
Unless the PKR top leadership can get the 2 factions to settle their differences, picking a PKR candidate from either faction, assuming PAS makes way, risks internal sabotage from the other faction.
I am told that Sabah PKR chief, Tamrin Jailani, who I met in Labuan on 22nd February, has been asked by the local Labuan Pakatan leaders to intervene and resolve the dispute between the 2 factions in PKR Labuan.
DAP, PKR and SAPP members and leaders in Labuan that I have met have told me that they are confident that if PAS will  make way and PKR resolve their internal differences and offer a solid candidate, Labuan can be ABUed.
Can we work together to ABUkan Labuan?

Zaid akan bertanding di Kota Bharu atas tiket KITA

Umno menjadi lemah kerana dedalu-dedalu didalamnya

Oleh Aspan Alias | March 06, 2012
The Malaysian Insider

6 MAC — Ditempat-tempat dimana orang ramai duduk berborak, isu politik memang menjadi perkara yang wajib disebut, lebih-lebih lagi waktu kita menunggu pilihanraya yang hampir tiba ini. Bila pilihanraya, siapa yang akan menang dan kalah dan apakah isu yang mungkin menjadi bahan kempen oleh kedua-dua belah pihak yang menawarkan diri dan parti mereka nanti.
Tetapi isu orang Melayulah yang menjadi isu terbesar yang orang ramai selalu menyebutnya akhir-akhir ini. Isu memohon maaf Najib kepada orang ramai itu telah membawa isu baru pula. Ramai yang berpendapat apa yang dilakukan oleh Najib itu merupakan perkara yang merugikan Umno dari sudut politiknya. Adalah sukar untuk membuat tafsiran permohonan maaf secara terbuka Najib itu.
Walau bagaimanapun yang jelas sudah ramai pula yang beranggapan bahawa Najib tidak lagi “viable” sebagai pemimpin nombor satu negara dan sudah ada dikalangan orang-orang Umno sendiri berpendapat yang Najib sudah sampai ke penghujungnya, termasuklah dua orang pimpinan bahagian Umno yang bertemu dengan saya itu. “I think Najib should throw his towel now,” kata salah seorang dari pimpinan Umno itu.

Tetapi jika Najib hendak berhenti siapa yang akan mengambil alih? Adakah Muhyiddin menjadi pilihan untuk mengganti Najib? Salah seorang yang berjumpa saya itu bingkas menjawab, “Kalau Muhyiddin, tak payahlah. That will a bigger disaster,” kata seorang lagi.
Saya bertanya samada mereka berdua ini akan berusaha untuk menjadi calon seperti yang ramai-ramai itu. Mereka kata mereka tidak lagi berminat kerana sudah hilang semangat menghadapi keadaan serius dalam BN sekarang ini. Malahan mereka berkata yang niat mereka untuk berjumpa saya itu ialah untuk memulakan perbincangan untuk menyertai DAP kerana parti itu telah berjaya menunjukkan kemampuan untuk mentadbir secara baik seperti yang berlaku di Pulau Pinang.
Pulau Pinang seperti juga kerajaan negeri Selangor, telah terbukti ada perbezaan dengan pengalaman dibawah pemerintahan BN dahulu. Lagi pula kata mereka, selagi mereka berada didalam Umno selagi itulah mereka mendengar dan melihat isu buruk yang keterlaluan buruknya moralnya. “Saya tidak tahan melihat kita semua sentiasa dibayar untuk menyokong mereka. Saya yakin Umno sudah sampai garis penamat hayatnya. Buktinya jelas. Apabila pemimpin-pemimpinnya ke hulu ke hilir membayar dan membeli undi disana sini itulah petanda parti itu akan habis riwayatnya!,” kata salah seorang lagi.
Pandangan pemimpin Umno itu benar. Dimana-mana tamaddun besar dalam sejarah dunia ini pemerintahnya akan berakhir apabila budaya membeli, mengungut dan membohongi orang dibawah perintahnya. Dizaman Roman Empire yang begitu kuat dan stabil, Empire itu tersungkur selepas parkara-perkara yang disebut tadi berlaku kerana mempertahankan kuasa.
Bagi sesiapa yang berfikir dengan teliti dan tekun, ciri-ciri ini sudah berlaku dan berlarutan. Ianya bermula sejak pentadbiran post Hussein Onn dan sekarang sudah menjadi budaya yang sudah tidak dapat dileraikan lagi. Kalau ini berlarutan lagi maka yang kita tunggu hanyalah satu, iaitu kehancuran budaya dan akhlak kehidupan generasi kita yang akan datang.
Persoalannya sekarang bolehkah ianya dileraikan. Tahukah pentadbiran sekarang cara dan mampu untuk meleraikan budaya ini sedangkan mereka adalah pengamal tegar kepada budaya ini. Bolehkah BN membetulkan keadaan dengan memohon maaf dan berjanji untuk memberhentikan budaya ini. Tidak ada siapa yang mempunyai daya pemikiran boleh mempercayai janji-janji manis ini kerana rasuah itu sudah menjadi “addiction” kepada pemimpin-pemimpin BN khususnya Umno.
Kita tahu cara dan kaedah yang paling betul untuk penyelesaian terhadap budaya korup, salah gunakuasa, kemurungan sistem kehakiman dan “judiciary” negara dan berbagai-bagai lagi kemungkaran yang tidak dapat dikawal lagi ini. Caranya ialah untuk Najib dan seluruh kepimpinan dalam Umno itu meletakkan jawatan dan menjauhi kuasa yang mereka pernah menyalahlakukan itu.
Tetapi mahukah mereka berbuat demikian? Tentu mereka tahu kuasa itu adalah “ultimate” peribadi mereka dan bukannya untuk parti. Umno yang dikatakan parti yang baik itu telah dicemari dengan barisan pimpinan yang rasuah dan tidak berintregriti.
Umno itu ibarat pohon yang kuat tetapi oleh kerana terlalu banyak dedalu yang tumbuh dipohon itu, maka akhirnya pohon yang kuat juga akan akhirnya mati jika dedalu yang tumbuh mekar dipohon itu tidak dibuang.
Bagi diri saya sendiri, saya telah duduk kekal didalam Umno sebegitu lama kerana mengharapkan dedalu ini dicantas dan dibuang agar pohon itu (Umno) dapat kembali hidup subur. Tetapi hari demi hari, tahun demi tahun saya nampak dedalu itu bertambah membesar, maka saya mengambil keputusan untuk menyertai parti yang tidak ada dedalu ini tumbuh. Kata-kata saya kepada Umno ditempat dan negeri saya bertahun-tahun dahulu, ternyata menjadi kenyataan. Umno sudah tidak dapat diselamatkan lagi.
Dedalu-dedalu ini tumbuh dengan pesatnya sehinggakan pohon itu hampir mati dan tidak berbuah lagi. Bagi saya pohon yang disalut oleh tumbuhan dedalu tadi akan pasti mati, dan ianya tidak payah ditebang untuk membunuh pohon yang suatu ketika dahulu pohon yang kuat dan kukuh.
Dedalu-dedalu yang tumbuh dipohon rendang ini masih kekal, malahan bertambah membesar lagi. Saya hendak juga melihat bukti kalau ada pohon yang dihinggapi tumbuhan dedalu ini boleh hidup sampai bila-bila.
Bagi saya mana-mana pokok yang dihinggapi dedalu ini akan mati secara “natural” akhirnya. Kepada penyokong-penyokong Umno sama-samalah kita lihat apa yang akan terjadi kepada pohon (Umno) yang kian hari kian kurus kerana segala baja-baja pokok itu sudah disedut oleh dedalu yang hidup dan melekat kepada pokok yang suatu ketika dahulu merupakan pohon rendang tempat rakyat semua kaum khususnya orang Melayu berteduh.
Orang Melayu yang tekun berfikir merasa amat sedih kerana tempat mereka berteduh telah di ambilalih oleh dedalu yang hidup dipohon (Umno) sejak dua tiga dekad dahulu. Sekarang kita lihat Umno sedang berhempas pulas untuk mengambilalih kerajaan negeri Selangor selepas pilihanraya nanti. Rakyat Selangor mesti berfikir dengan tenang dan tekun, yang cuba hendak mengambilalih ini adalah dedalu yang hendak hidup dipohon rendang bernama Selangor itu.
Apa yang saya perkatakan ini tentunya akan mendapat tentangan dari penyokong pohon yang disaluti dedalu ini. Saya tidak kisah itu semua. Katalah apa-apa pun terhadap diri saya sekehendak hati. Yang penting bagi saya akhirnya nanti saya akan membuktikan kebenaran apa yang saya katakan ini. Semasa itu nanti menangis air mata darah pun tidak akan dapat menyelamatkan bangsa dan negara lagi.
Jika saya sudah tiada didunia ini dan apa yang saya katakan ini akan menjadi kenyataan, hadiahkan saya bacaan surah al-fatihah sekali seorang. Itu pun kalau ikhlas.
NB: Dedalu itu adalah sejenis tumbuhan yang tidak tumbuh ditanah. Dedalu ini tumbuh dipangkal dahan pokok-pokok yang rendang dan sentiasa duduk diatas sambil menumpang hidup dipohon yang rendang itu. Pohon rendang itu selalunya akan mati kerana dedalu yang menumpang hidup itu. Dalam bahasa saintifiknya dedalu ini adalah “parasite”. —

Zaid Ibrahim To Stand In Kota Baharu

PETALING JAYA, March 7 (Bernama) -- Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita) president Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said Wednesday he would contest in the parliamentary constituency of Kota Baharu under the party's banner in the next general election.

Stating that Kita is also eyeing several other seats, he said details on the candidates and the list of seats would be announced at the end of the month.

Zaid, who spoke to reporters at his residence here, was Barisan Nasional's Kota Baharu member of parliament from 2004 to 2008 but was dropped as a candidate in the 2008 general election.

He then joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) but left the party in 2010 before forming Kita.

Why did AK sell his power assets to 1MDB?

Ananda Krishnan’s sale of his power generation assets at this time raises a number of questions and concerns – more so as the assets are being sold to 1MDB, whose debt is guaranteed by the federal government. 
1MDB is a “strategic development company” owned by the Malaysian government. The firm started life as the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was set up to manage Terengganu’s RM1bn annual revenue from oil royalties under what would be the country’s second sovereign wealth fund. It has issued bonds (on the strength of its oil royalty income i.e. our oil money) and these have been guaranteed by the federal government (i.e. the public bears the burden of the guarantee).

The RM8.5bn deal between Ananda Krishnan’s Tanjung Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd and 1MDB should be viewed against the following backdrop:
Tenaga has been incurring huge losses in recent quarters. Apart from the shortage of natural gas, TNB is groaning from the heavy burden of capacity payments to IPPs. In FY2010, the capacity payments amounted to RM15.9bn; in FY2011, the these payments soared to RM19.2bn. IPPs, especially the first generation, have profited from such favourable terms – at TNB’s expense (and by extension, the Malaysian public’s expense – as TNB is a government-linked firm).

The Energy Commission has reportedly announced that these first generation IPPs would be required to take a cut in capacity payments (based on installed capacity) before their contracts can be extended. The Edge (5 March 2012) reported that when the first round of power purchase agreements (PPAs) start expiring in 2016, IPPs may have to mothball their plants if the PPA renegotiations remain deadlocked (which means they will not be allowed to sell their power to TNB).

Because of the shortage of natural gas (for whatever reason), Petronas is moving towards importing more natural gas. At present, gas subsidies are gradually being removed. Soon, the cost of gas that Tenaga buys will move up closer to market price, and the IPPs may be asked to absorb a share of the higher cost of fuel.

Also, Pakatan has indicated that if it comes to power in Putrajaya, it will renegotiate the lop-sided PPAs, which were entered into under the Mahathir administration – for which Tenaga has suffered immensely. The IPPs are bound to be concerned about what could happen if Pakatan comes to power. The gravy train could come to a screeching halt.

This article in the Malaysian Insider raises concerns about the deal itself.