Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Retirees hired as full-time Pro-Govt bloggers

TEMERLOH: Pahang has appointed three pensioners as bloggers to counter slanderous comments and allegations posted on the Internet. [Bernama, 23/11/08]

The government has been particularly cautious about the role of bloggers in shaping the political landscape and their likely tendencies to post criticisms of government policies on the internet.

It was estimated that as many as 2 million young voters would be eligible to cast their ballots in the next general election, many of whom rely heavily on the internet as their main source of information. In fact, they will form 20-25% of the number of votes the next time around. With the perception that the internet is mainly tainted with critical literature against the government found mainly on blogs, it is high time for the authorities to ensure 'correct' information is being passed on internet users. The internet is therefore a powerful tool that could influence public support for the government or the Opposition.

To address this, the Pahang state government announced on November 23 that it has appointed 3 pensioners as official full-time 'government bloggers'. Their role is the counter anti-government comments and blog posts on the internet in order to provide an alternative platform of information to the public.

It is still unknown as to whom this brilliant idea belong to but State Information, Science, Technology and Innovation Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said the bloggers would be paid allowances and be given computers and internet access in their homes.

"The pensioners can capitalise on their experience to explain the actual situation to the people besides providing feedbacks and opinions to the government. More bloggers will be appointed. We value pensioners' thoughts in our efforts to improve the state's economy and prosperity and unity of the people," he told reporters. [Bernama, 23/11/08]
Could this be seen as a personal vendetta against the blogger community? After all, the Chief Minister of Pahang, Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob had recently told the state legislative assembly recently that he was slandered by a blogger. Nevertheless, it is still a brilliant way to ensure pensioners are still productive members of society.

So, what's next? Hiring Mat Rempits to be bloggers too?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Have you heard of a pro-ISA rally?

On November 23, the Edisi 7 prime time news on the public channel, NTV7 reported that a pro-ISA gathering was held in Kuala Lumpur, organised by a coalition of NGOs known as Pewaris. It was reported that 500 people took part in the rally in support of the ISA (Internal Security Act) to remain despite the countless calls for its abolishment by various quarters of society. The group's spokesperson at the gathering told NTV7 reporters that the group believes the ISA should be retained but amendments to the legislature are needed to keep up with the times.

The 500-strong group marched for 2km along Jalan Tun Razak in the heart of the capital city, cheering their way to the Jalan Tun Razak Police Station to lodge a police report seeking action against those who stir up racial issues and question Malay rights.

The march was briefly disrupted when an unidentified woman, a pedestrian, started making her anti-ISA sentiments known to the group. She was also seen taking pictures with her cellphone. Her actions provoked several participants of the march who went after her. Fortunately, police officers at the scene managed to intervene and safely escorted the lady to her car. Angry remarks were heard hurling at the lady when she made her way to safety. One of the participants of the pro-ISA rally was even caught on tape kicking her car. No police arrests have been made.

On the same day, Malaysiakini reported the police had disrupted an anti-ISA event which was held at a field in Ampang Jaya. The gathering of about 100 people were greeted by 40 over anti-riot personnels who moved in to dispersed the crowd. It was understood that 7 arrests were made by the police.

It was unclear whether a police permit was granted to the organisers of the pro-ISA rally but it was apparent that the anti-ISA event had been marked as 'illegal' the moment it began. Now, which behaviour was more of a threat to society: A mob who went after a lady in the streets or a group of people gathered at a municipal field?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Malay rights lobby group rejects multiculturalism

KUALA LUMPUR - Perak Raja Muda Raja Nazrin Shah's speech on multiculturalism has sparked differing reactions from different groups. Malay rights lobby group Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) supports the Raja Muda's call for immigrant communities in Malaysia to respect and accept the culture, history and system of government already in place. However, they did not acknowledge the crown prince's message in the same speech yesterday that Malaysians must embrace multiculturalism. [The Malaysian Insider, 20/11/08]

The Malay rights lobby group, Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) was not convinced that multiculturalism could be achieved in Malaysia, subtly scoffing off Perak crown price's warning of modern day tribalism in the country. The group's president and independent MP of Pasir Mas, Datuk Ibrahim Ali was commenting on Perak Raja Muda Raja Nazrin Shah's recent speech on multiculturalism.

On November 19, Raja Nazrin said that Malaysians must embrace multiculturalism and at the same time, be given the freedom to practice cultures and traditions of their own. The Perak crown prince also pointed out the existence of racial sectarianism in Malaysian society and warned that the country is 'in danger' if it continues on the present path. Raja Nazrin's concerns were justified as the country is currently witnessing the greatest weakening of ethnic relations since independence from British rule in 1957.

"What characterises democratic life is that it is the person who decides whether he or she wants to adjust and be absorbed or remain aloof. At the same time, the need to forge a community of people with shared values and interests remains paramount.”

" ...different ethnicities and religion had settled down in Malaysia and helped create a 'more heterogeneous and prosperous state'. Today, all belong and are integral to the Malaysian landscape," he said in his speech. [The Malaysian Insider, 19/11/08]

However, multiculturalism seemed to be an incomprehensible concept to Perkasa which suggested that immigrant communities in Malaysia should be 'forced' to assimilate into the local culture by abandoning the language and traditions of their home countries. The group's president also supported his notion by taking the newly elected United States President Barack Obama as an example.

"Immigrants across the world swear their allegiance to their new country and its leaders. They adapt to the culture, language and lifestyle in their new homeland. In the case of the United States, Barack Obama shed his language, culture and the Islamic religion of his family in Kenya and Indonesia to assimilate. This was what qualified him to become President," Ibrahim Ali claimed. [The Malaysian Insider, 20/11/08]

Ibrahim Ali, do get your facts straight before making comparisons to prove your point:

  • First of all, Obama was born a citizen of the United States and THAT is what qualifies him to become President.
  • The President-elect did not shed his native language -he was born to English speaking parents to begin with.
  • Obama was brought up as an American on American soil after his parents separated when he was just two. Would it be fair to say he abandon his Kenyan culture then?
  • Fourthly, Obama was not born a Muslim as contrary to popular belief. Obama described his Kenyan father as 'raised a Muslim' but a 'confirmed atheist' by the time his parents met. His Indonesian stepfather, on the other hand, was described as 'a man who saw religion as not particularly useful.' Obama remained religion-less until 1988 when he was baptized into the Christian faith. Therefore, Ibrahim Ali was wrong to say Obama abandoned the Islamic religion simply because he wasn't a Muslim in the first place.

Meanwhile, MCA spokesman Lee Wei Kiat applauded Raja Nazrin's statement that "the principles of equality and fairness suggest a preferred policy of integration rather than assimilation."

"Nations that do not uphold the above principles would find only a small privileged group benefiting or taking advantage from unfair policies, while most other people would suffer from an undesirable scenario. Nations would face problems of disunity, such as disintegration and distrust among the peoples when country leaders opt for forced assimilation and not genuine integration."

"MCA welcomes the statement by YM Raja Dr Nazrin who represents the views of open-minded opinion leaders, who speak without fear and favour, and should be exemplary for all other small-minded leaders who adopt chauvinistic viewpoints in their power struggle and rhetoric," Lee said. [The Malaysian Insider, 20/11/08]

Malaysia's struggle has always been the vague concept of its national identity, of which its understanding varies across society. But the ugly truth remains that there are still a number of Malaysians who refuse to accept the fact that their country is a multicultural nation even after 51 years of independence. Malaysians must not be obsessed by a narrowminded nationalistic view of a single race or culture country if we truly hope for a united Malaysia.

Do the ethnic communities in the country need to be reduced into a single, monotonous culture in order to be able to define ourselves as one nation? No. As Malaysians, diversity is our identity and we should be proud of it!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

When fuel subsidies cease, Malaysians pay petrol tax

KUALA LUMPUR — Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad revealed today the government has stopped subsidising petrol since Nov 1 and has been effectively collecting taxes instead on petrol consumption. [The Malaysian Insider, 18/11/08]

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad (image) revealed to reporters in Parliament that the government had actually ceased all fuel subsidies since November 1 onwards. The price of RON97 petrol had fallen to RM2 per litre while RON92 and diesel were reduced to RM1.90 per litre. The world price of crude oil had dipped under US$65; making it possible for the government to slash fuel prices. As of November 18, the current world crude oil price hovers at US$55 per barrel. In May, the price was at a whopping US$120 per barrel.

It was understood that oil companies make a profit of RM0.19 and fuel station operators rake in RM0.12 for every litre of fuel purchased here in this country. If the laws of mathematics still apply, it can be inferred that the cost price of RON97 petrol is actually RM1.61. But why are Malaysians are paying RM2 instead? The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister said margins in the pump prices and the cost was being returned to the government effectively as a form of tax.

So, is the so-called petrol tax justified?

The announcement that fuel subsidies have ceased since November 1 puzzled many, as the government said it would maintain a RM0.30 fuel-subsidy to keep pump prices below its market value. In June 2008, the government decided to trim its expenditure by reducing fuel subsidies that had kept petrol and diesel prices well below RM2 for years. As a result, the prices of RON97 petrol and diesel rocketed to RM2.70 and RM2.58 literally overnight.

On the other hand, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak claimed that a projected RM7 billion in savings in fuel subsidies would be utilized to stimulate the ailing economy while presenting the 2009 Budget. The same sentiments were shared by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister.

"...With RM21 billion budgeted for fuel subsidies in 2009 and subsidies for 2007, savings from fuel subsidies would be far more than RM7 billion. If crude oil stays under US$60 per barrel, I am expecting at least RM10 billion in savings," Shahrir said. [The Malaysian Insider, 18/11/08]
If the government had wittingly reduced fuel subsidies in June to save some cash, it appears that the government intends to profit from its petrol taxes when the fuel subsidies are nowremoved. Even so, the government still stands to make profit if RON97 petrol prices are back at RM1.92 - the pump price prior to the reduction of subsidies in June.

Subsidies or no subsidies, it does not seem to be any of any difference as Malaysians are still asked to pay more than what is written on the price tag.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When a Malay disagrees with the Ketuanan Melayu...

KOTA BARU: Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said he disagreed with the notion of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) because there are no race considerations in Islam. [The Star, 17/11/08]

The Chief Minister of Kelantan and PAS spiritual leader, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (image) was referring to the Ketuanan Melayu - an ideology proposed by UMNO that held the racist belief of Malay supremacy among the other races in the country.

The widely revered Chief Minister said the whole concept of the Ketuanan Melayu is racist in the eyes of Islam and labelled Muslims who placed nationalism and race ahead of religion as 'disillusioned followers'. After all, the religion of Islam in this country is not restricted only to the Malays but there are also Chinese and Indian Muslims in Malaysia.

Click here for the write-up on UMNO's ideology of Ketuanan Melayu.

“It is a religion above race. We cannot quantify race with Islam, such as Malays with Islam. There are also Chinese and Indian Muslims,” said the PAS spiritual adviser. Those who place race above religion are being brainwashed by western culture,” Datuk Nik Aziz said. [The Star, 17/11/08]

The term Ketuanan Melayu was never mentioned in the Federal Constitution. However, Article 153 is a provision in the Constitution that guarantees and protects the special position of the Malays and the Orang Asli (indigenious people). UMNO have exploited the lack of definition on the term of 'special position of the Malays' and have clearly twisted the meaning to serve its own interests.

The non-Malays do not reject Article 153; they respect and embrace the fact that the Malays and the Orang Asli are the natives of the land. However, Article 153, as many Malaysians believe, should not be manipulated by any party for its racial agenda and in turn, using it to discriminate other ethnic communities in the country.

What then? Can the special position of the Malays be preserved without discriminating the other races? The answer is yes. An amicable solution can definitely be achieved if and only if multi-lateral dialogues are allowed to take place without any racist intentions between the Malay and non-Malay communities. Therefore, UMNO's Ketuanan Melayu ideology is not only unconstitutional but also a delusive racist belief that contradicts the spirit of Malaysia.

In fact, UMNO was embarrassed when one of their own, Zaid Ibrahim went public to criticise the Ketuanan Melayu belief; calling it a failure. The former Law Minister also blamed the racist ideology for poor ethnic relations in this country. Read "Zaid Ibrahim called a traitor for criticizing UMNO" for more details.

It is legally dangerous for a non-Malay to speak out against the Ketuanan Melayu for the risk of it being seen as a direct challenge to Article 153 in the Federal Constitution. But when Malays like Datuk Nik Aziz and Zaid Ibrahim publically disagree with the total fallacy of the Ketuanan Melayu, UMNO now has no excuse to threaten anyone with 'another May 13'.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

RM225 million of public funds missing

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng wants former executive councillor Dr Teng Hock Nan to explain how RM225mil in the Seberang Prai Municipal Council’s coffers (MPSP) “disappeared” in six years. [The Star, 16/11/08]

Former State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Dr. Teng Hock Nan went ballistic when Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng publically voiced his frustration over the 'missing millions' incurred by the Seberang Prai Municipal Council while under Barisan Nasional rule.

Lim also said that the state as a whole was the final victim to bear the financial burden as a result of the huge losses amounting to RM225 million incurred by the Seberang Prai Municipal Council for the past six years; thus bearing a negative effect on the council's budget for 2009.

“Imagine in six years, RM225 million gone. Next year, we have to spend RM160mil for expenses but we (only) have RM145mil revenue which means the council will incur a RM15mil deficit. There is no new programme and there is not even enough to pay staff salaries,” Lim told reporters. [The Star, 16/11/08]

The Chief Minister also commented that the Penang Municipal Council had drawn up a balanced budget for the first time with Pakatan Rakyat in charge; subtly mocking the state's former administration.

On the other side of the fighting ring, Dr. Teng Hock Nan bit back at the Chief Minister's comments; saying it was rather unprofessional for the former to 'complain' to the press about this matter.

“In April, he (Lim Guan Eng) said the findings on the losses would be revealed but to date we have heard nothing. Instead, he has gone to the press asking me to explain the council’s finances and implying that things were not properly accounted for. This is a mere political ploy to embarrass me. Everything is properly documented - there are no secrets." he said. [The Star, 16/11/08]
Dr. Teng said it was unfair for the current state government to criticise the former administration on such issues as the DAP (now the ruling party of Penang) had the opportunity to debate on state expenditures while Penang was under the Barisan Nasional. However, he agreed that appropriate actions should be taken if the current administration finds any improprieties in previous local council budgets.

The former State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman was fair to say that it was not right for the current administration to question previous budgets as the DAP had the chance debate it then. But then again, who was given the responsibility of carrying out the budget? DAP or the Barisan Nasional state government?

In fact, the Chief Minister did present a valid argument: How did RM225 million just 'disappear' from the municipal council's coffers in a short period of six years?

The DAP may have had failed to seize their chance to effectively debate such budgets. True, but Dr. Teng Hock Nan did not offer any explanation either. Instead, the former State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman went about defending himself and the former Barisan Nasional administration when in fact, a simple explanation is all that the Chief Minister was asking for.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

ACA reports RM45 million bribes in 10 months

KUANTAN: Bribes exceeding RM45 million changed hands during the first 10 months of the year, said Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) director-general Datuk Ahmad Said Hamdan. [The Star, 13/11/08]

The ACA director-general stunned the public with his agency's latest findings when he spoke at the opening ceremony of the Leadership With Integrity Seminar in Kuantan. Ahmad Said revealed that a total of RM45 million worth of bribes have exchanged hands in the first 10 months of this year.

The ACA was said to have successfully nabbed 548 people guilty of corruption; 252 of whom were civil servants and 296 from the private sector. The agency also managed to seize property worth RM8.8 million and collected RM1.3 million in fines in the same period.

"What is interesting is that based on the statistics, there is an obvious change over the past few years whereby, there was a dip in the number of public officers arrested for corruption as compared to those in the private sector or individuals," said Ahmad Said. [The Malaysian Insider, 14/11/08]
According to Ahmad Said, the ACA will continue to strive against corruption in all sectors of society with additional 5,000 officers and staff being added to their workforce by the year 2012.

Malaysians would be pleased to know that the ACA was willing to get their hands dirty with the corrupt and dissolute in the civil and private sectors. However, the readiness of the agency to probe scandals involving big names of society or government (if any) still remains an unconvincing dogma. The ACA is currently under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Department and unless the body is separated and be made independent, the agency might find its hands tied when the interests of certain high-profile individuals or companies have to be protected.

Nonetheless, the ACA should still be commended for their recent exposé in the total amount of bribes and the arrests of those guilty for the breach of integrity for the past 10 months. Therefore, it is imperative Ahmad Said and his men continue to build on this little triumph of theirs, lest they forget that there is still more needed to be done in the cleaning up of society.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Police in denial despite video evidence against them

Selangor Police Chief, Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar denied that the police made arrests a candlelight vigil held recently while the participants were singing the national anthem. [Malaysiakini, 10/11/08]

The infamous arrests of 24 citizens, including PJ Utara MP Tony Pua and Selangor executive councillor Ronnie Liu by the police received little praises from the public. The Royal Malaysian Police got down and dirty with the attendees of a candlelight vigil held in conjunction of the first anniversary of the BERSIH (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) movement, which started in November last year.

The authorities had reportedly deployed anti-riot personnels and a water canon truck to disperse the crowd; claiming the gathering was 'illegal' as it did not have a permit. True enough, the BERSIH gathering was 'illegal' by law. But the police has yet to explain their use of excessive force on a peaceful candlelight vigil and an MP who came in support of the gathering.

The night also saw a videographer from the news website, Malaysiakini being arrested by the police and his video camera confiscated. It was clear that the police did not want any press coverage on their latest operation against peaceful citizens as the videographer was the only representative from the media present at that time.

Read Royal Police the real threat to public order? for more details on the incident.

It was reported that the police brought in anti-riot personnels to quell the apparent 'unruly' crowd while they were singing the national anthem. Selangor Police Chief, Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar denied that the police had acted when the Negaraku was sung; saying it was a baseless claim by the participants of the gathering. It was understood that the incident was recorded by Shukri Mohamad, the Malaysiakini videographer who was subsequently arrested for 'being there'.

When the Selangor Police Chief was told that there was video proof on the allegations that the police had indeed arrested people while the Negaraku was sung, Khalid could only reply, "I deny it".

How does one deny an evidence? It is therefore an embarrassment for a police officer to come out and deny a misconduct despite evidences to prove it, let alone a high ranking official like Khalid.

However, the police could afford to dwell in denial as the only video evidence is in their hands after Shukri's video camera was seized during the crackdown. The police had also told reporters that the video camera will not be returned to the owner until the police have completed their investigations. Apparently, they need to 'look inside the camera' in order to assist in their probe.

This is a farce. What can the police possibly investigate further? Whether it's a Sony or a Panasonic? If the police would like to waste their time on investigating trivial matters, it would do the country some good if they could divert half of all that passion for C.S.I into solving real crimes and to help putting the plug on the escalating crime rates.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, however, defended the police for their actions at the BERSIH gathering. He said that the arrests made by the authorities were justified as it was required to maintain public order.

"In that situation, the police had to act as it is their responsibility to enforce the law and ensure public order is maintained," he told reporters at the parliament lobby. [The Malaysian Insider, 10/11/08]
Public order? Since when was the public in disorder during the gathering? For all that matters, the gathering only became disorderly when the police decided to handle a bunch of candle-holding, anthem-singing people as looting rioters.

Nonetheless, the real concern lies not in the seizure of Sony video cameras but the perplexing inability of the police to discern and grasp the difference of a peaceful gathering and a full-steam street riot.

Perhaps the Selangor Police Chief had thought that the public should not be playing with fire as candlelight vigils are prone to intensify into bush fires. That would probably explain the water cannon truck.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Malaysia under Najib spells dictatorship, says Anwar

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (image) has predicted a dictatorial regime under Prime Minister-designate Datuk Seri Najib Razak. [The Malaysian Insider, 10/11/08]

The charismatic former Finance Minister turned Opposition head was commenting on the government's plan of a financial boost worth RM7 billion to stimulate positive economic growth in the midst of a global recession. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the funds will be spent on a wide range of projects, from light rail transport to repairing houses of the poor with the hope of boosting the nation's ailing economy.

However, Najib's decision to allocated the huge sum of public funds despite its positive effects (as argued by the Finance Ministry) was criticized by theDatuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Such a move, according to Anwar, did not go through the proper parliamentary procedures and thus, could not be considered an approved policy.

"It has not been approved by Parliament. It has not even been tabled," the Permatang Pauh MP said of the stimulus plan. The public is not even aware this is a problem as conveniently most mainstream newspapers have covered this up just to protect him," Anwar said. [The Malaysian Insider, 10/11/08]

Najib's refusal to table the financial package in the parliament for a proper debate was seen as a prelude of what was to come under reign ofNajib when he assumes the role of Prime Minister next year. Anwar's statements echoed the Opposition insistence that such large utilization of public funds should be brought for a detailed parliamentary debate.

"This means you can anticipate the type of administration under Najib. In the issue of tabling this revised budget, the fact is that it was not done according to procedures. If he says it will be disbursed in January, how do you disburse funds that have not been approved by Parliament? So I do not know from where, maybe from his savings,"Anwar told reporters. [The Malaysian Insider, 10/11/08]

Even the US$700 billion financial bailout package proposed by President Bush in September to rescue the American economy had to be presented to Congress for approval.

The RM7 billion stimulus package was not part of the original 2009 Budget. On Wednesday, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia was right to rule that Najib's proposals were not an amendment to the 2009 Budget. However, the announcement of the RM7 billion stimulus package was announced by Najib in his closing speech of the 2009 Budget debate.

The question mark hangs over Najib's announcement of an addition to the existing budget when clearly
no changes to the 2009 Budget was tabled at the Dewan Rakyat.In other words, Najib made changes to the agreed Budget without informing the Dewan Rakyat of any amendments.

However, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah had insisted in Parliament that the funds allocated in the stimulus package was under an administrative order from the Finance Ministry and were not considered an amendment to the Budget Bill. In answering to Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang's query, Ahmad Husni said that the RM7 billion package was a 'hypothetical' solution as it depended on savings made from the downturn in global fuel prices.

But the 2009 Budget was also a 'hypothetical' solution by itself, as it depended on educated assumptions of revenues and expenditures acquired from predicted economic trends.

One might also argue that such bureaucratic corners had to be cut when an immediate response by the government is needed in the wake of a dire situation, in this case, the global credit crunch.

But why the double standards when the 2009 Budget was given the privilege of a parliamentary debate while a similar 'hypothetical' solution in the form of the stimulus package was approved without the need of one?

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Royal Police the real threat to public order?

Police detained PJ Utara MP Tony Pua and Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Lau Weng San at a rally in PJ New Town tonight to mark the first anniversary of the Bersih movement, which started in November last year. [The Malaysian Insider, 9/11/08]

MP Tony Pua and others were arrested for gathering at the PJ Civic Centre after they were earlier told not to hold a candlelight vigil in a nearby field. [Malaysiakini, 9/11/08]

The only thing the Royal Malaysian Police deserve a gold medal for is their inability to recognise priorities as a body that has the royal mandate to serve and protect the public. When police officers should be roaming the streets to flush out crooks and vices, precious manpower was senselessly put to waste when a peaceful rally for peace and justice was considered a menace to public order.

The gathering was initially planned at a field near Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya to mark the first anniversary of the BERSIH (Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections) movement, which started in November last year. The crowd was closely watched by two truckloads of policemen who decided to 'sit and wait' before taking any further action. Among those present were PJ Utara MP Tony Pua and blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who was recently released from detention under the Internal Security Act. However, the assembly was soon called off as the police obstructed the proceedings and demanded that the crowd return immediately to their homes.

The lot, numbering hundreds, ignored the orders from the police and marched towards the nearby Petaling Jaya City Council to hold a candlelight vigil there instead. The police, along with anti-riot personnels decided to get ugly with the crowd as the people sang the national anthem, Negaraku before being dismissed.

It was understood that the anti-riot officers were fully equipped with shields and accompanied by a water canon truck. A videographer from Malaysiakini, Shukri Mohamad who decided to record the commotion was confronted by the police and was subsequently arrested for simply videotaping potential police hostility.

"I was recording the water canon truck when a police officer ordered me to stop videotaping. He also ordered to surrender my camera and the tape. I turned around and tried to leave but I was arrested there and then," Shukri Mohamad said. [Malaysiakini, 9/11/08]

Also arrested was PJ Utara MP Tony Pua who, according to witnesses, was harshly detained and chucked into a Black Maria, a vehicle used by the police to ferry prisoners. Police officers were also seen chasing people into restaurants in the area where many have taken refuge to avoid arrest.

The police have made 24 arrests so far.

The question now is with the police and the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as to where their priorities lie in carrying out their duties. Cracking down on peaceful rallies seemed to be more of a bigger concern for Syed Hamid and his men than the rising crime rates around the country. Why the need for riot policemen when there wasn't a riot in the first place?

The latest nonsensicality of an incompetent police force had clearly shown what was more of a threat to national security and public order - candlelight vigils for peace or truckloads of anti-riot policemen using excessive force to disperse a non-existent mob.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Zaid Ibrahim called a traitor for criticizing UMNO

BALING (Kedah): Former defacto law minister Zaid Ibrahim has come under withering criticism from Umno politicians for saying that the concept of 'Ketuanan Melayu' or Malay supremacy championed by the party has led to failed policies. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar led the charge, saying Mr Zaid was a traitor to his own race and should apologise for his remarks. [The Straits Times Singapore, 4/11/08]

On October 31, ex-Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim (image) took a swipe at UMNO, saying the party's ideology of "ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy)" was a failure and had deviated from addressing the real issues plaguing the country. He said this during the 21st LawAsia Conference 2008 which he expressed in his speech that the government should practise a more transparent form of democracy to accommodate the rights of all Malaysians.

Zaid who resigned as Law Minister in September following his disapproval of the government's errant use of the Internal Security Act on three citizens, said that the concept of ketuanan Melayu had resulted the country's current depressing state of affair where racial harmony is at its most fragile.

“It is time for us all to practise a more transparent and egalitarian form of democracy and to recognise and respect the rights and dignity of all the citizens of this country. Bandied about by Umno ideologues, the social contract took on a different, more racialist tone."

"Affirmative action and special status became a matter of privilege by reference to race rather than of need, and questioning of this new status quo was not to be tolerated. Since Malays were effectively represented in government, there was no way the interest of the Malays could be taken away other than through their own weakness and folly," he said. [The Star, 1/11/08]

Despite being an UMNO member himself, Zaid also commented that unless policies like the ketuanan Melayu is done with, it will be impossible to reconcile the principles of equality and civil rights of all citizens.

That being said, Zaid Ibrahim has turned himself as UMNO's prodigal, notably in the eyes of the Home Minister who seemed to have an opinion on everything patterning to anything. This time around, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar branded Zaid as a 'traitor to his own race' and demanded that he apologise for his remarks.
"There should be no attempt to deny or tarnish the history of the struggle by the Malays. If you say that the concept of Malay supremacy has failed, then Zaid will not be what he is today. He is fortunate he was born a Malay,"he said. [The NST, 4/11/08]
Indeed, Zaid Ibrahim was fortunate he was born a Malay; as one who recognizes the corrupt, racist ideologies of the Barisan Nasional ruling party. As for Syed Hamid, it was rather unfortunate for the Malay community to have someone as ignorant as Syed Hamid that rheotically claims to be their worthy defender.

In a similar fashion, UMNO supreme council member Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim echoed Syed Hamid's thoughts and said that the ex-Law Minister's comments on the ketuanan Melayu had gone too far.
"Unless Zaid repents, he must be expelled from the Malay race. He should have the Malay spirit for it was not wise for him to openly challenge and criticize the ketuanan Melayu policy. As a Malay, he must therefore apologise," he said in a gathering at Kangar. [Malaysiakini, 2/11/08]
Despite stern reactions rippling across the UMNO hegemony, Zaid refused to apologise for his criticism on the ketuanan Melayu concept. In return, he warned the Malay community to be wary of leaders who manipulate the name of the Malays in order to further their selfish political agendas. He also said it was because he loved his Malay race that he recommended open competition be allowed to ensure the race could compete with others in a globalised age.

Though he explained he was not challenging Article 153 of the Federal Constitution that ensures the special positions of the Malays, he believed that a new approach was needed to ensure young Malays closed ranks and cooperated not only with other races in the country but also foreigners.

Zaid Ibrahim may be called the harshest of names by his fellow party members but it was nothing short of an exemplary act for a man to go against the tide of his party whenever ethics and the spirit of Malaysia are compromised. A 'traitor' he may be, but at least he did not sell his soul to the devil of ignorance and racist delusions.
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

BN MP calls DAP MP a bastard in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 – It is often referred to as “this august house” but conduct in the Dewan Rakyat today plumbed new depths with obscene language that would make even a street walker protest. More than eyebrows were raised when a government MP called an opposition member a “bastard”. [The Malaysian Insider, 5/11/08]

The verbal insult was directed at Ipoh Barat MP, M.Kulasegaran (image) by Pasir Salak MP, Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman who was offended by the former's statements. Kulasegaran was claimed that Tajuddin was "hated" by the Indian community in Pasir Salak; an allegation which apparently did not go down well with the Barisan Nasional man.

In retaliation, Tajuddin furiously yelled, "Bastard!" and repeated the insult. He was also quoted saying, "You bloody bastard, show me proof!"

Opposition MPs immediately objected en masse against the profane language used by Tajuddin at their colleague. Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar then requested the Pasir Salak MP to retract the derogatory word but Tajuddin said he would only do so if Kulasegaran would retract his statement first.

The Ipoh Barat MP, however, deemed his allegation that Tajuddin was "hated" among the Indian community in the Pasir Salak constituency was fair. He reasoned that he had been an MP for a neighbouring constituency (Teluk Intan) and thus, was only conveying the true sentiments of the Indian community over at Pasir Salak.

Nonetheless, the Deputy Speaker said Kulasegaran had provoked Tajuddin by using the word "benci (hate)" to describe the ill will of the Indian community in that area towards their parliamentary representative. The Ipoh Barat MP was then asked to retract his comments which according to the Deputy Speaker, were 'strong' and inappropriate.

“I have heard a lot of unparliamentary words. This is the first time I hear that hate is not an acceptable term. I will withdraw it and replace it with ‘don’t like him’ (tak suka),” Kulasegaran replied.

Tajuddin subsequently withdrew his word but was not in a forgiving mood towards his instigator. He said, despite the withdrawal of words by the two men, Kulasegaran had shamed him for making such a remark.

The spat between the two MPs then prompted another Opposition MP to ask for a clarification over the issue of offensive statements in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Two weeks ago, when Karpal Singh told the Speaker to be serious … he was thrown out. But here, Pasir Salak used the word bastard twice and nothing was done. Why is there a double standard?” Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng asked but was quickly brushed off by the Deputy Speaker.

Lim was referring to Karpal Singh's (Bukit Gelugor MP) recent suspension from the Parliament after he accused the Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia of not being serious and “main-main (playing around).” [Click here for the news report].

The Parliament is not new to the occasional vocabularic fracas by elected representatives who are, most of the time, guilty for their poor choice of words in their speeches. The senseless quarrels over offensive words may just prove to be a waste of time and effort as national issues that require urgent attention are momentarily neglected for MPs of both sides to settle their score.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Johor and NS princes in a brawl at nightclub

KUALA LUMPUR: An alleged thrashing of a member of Malaysia's royal household and his friends by the grandson of the Sultan of Johor and his bodyguards last week looks set to renew debate over the indiscretions of the royalty and whether they are immune from prosecution. [The Straits Times Singapore, 31/10/08]

This piece of news probably did not get too far in the Malaysian press as the latest incident involving a bust-up between two princes had cast some serious doubts over the immunity of royalties from prosecution over acts of crime or indecency.

Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar, the son of the eldest princess of the Negeri Sembilan royalty had filed a police report, implicating that he was assaulted with the butt of a pistol by a grandson of the Sultan of Johor. The accused was identified only as Tengku Ismail, whose father is one of the Sultan's sons.

The brawl between the groups of the two royal household was said to have taken place at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of Saturday which left Tunku Nadzimuddin with a broken nose. His close friend, Shamshuddhuha Ishak also filed a separate police report that he was beaten by the bodyguards of the Johor royal household member at a popular nightclub in Kuala Lumpur on the same day. Shamshuddhuha told the police he had lost consciousness and a front tooth after the alleged beatings.

Sources close to the Negeri Sembilan royalty said there was intense lobbying to get Tunku Nadzimuddin and his friends to withdraw the police report. That would explain the limited if not, non-existent coverage by the local press on the matter which could embarrass both the Johor and Negeri Sembilan royal houses. Nonetheless, the Negeri Sembilan royal family remained unfazed and had called on the police to launch an investigation.

Under the Federal Constitution, Malaysia's nine Sultans who are in an unique rotation to serve as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, are above prosecution by the civil law and can only be tried by a special court. On the other hand, members of the royal family below the level of Sultan do not enjoy such protection and have legal parity with commoners; giving allowances for them to be charged in a civil court.

In the early 1990s, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad had pushed for constitutional amendments into removing royalty immunity from prosecution by civil laws. After all, everyone is equal before the law and members of the royal family are not exempted nor do they deserve any special treatment if a crime has been committed.
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Khir Toyo receives RM100k from PKNS.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo has confirmed receiving RM100,000 from the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS), describing the payment as halal (legitimate) income. [The Star, 31/10/08]

Selangor state executive councillor Ronnie Liu announced that the Pakatan-led state government would start a probe into alleged discrepancies by the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS). It was understood that PKNS had handed a bonus of RM100,000 to former Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Khir Toyo (image) when he was the chairman of the state-owned agency. However, he shrugged off the allegations that the payout was a form a corruption.

PKNS is currently embroiled in a standoff between the state government and UMNO who protested against the appoinment of a non-bumiputra, Low Siew Moi at the helm. Read "Pas joins UMNO in racist notion against PKR" for more details.

"I insisted that I would only accept payment if PKNS made a profit. For 2007, PKNS made a RM500mil profit. All board members were given certain sums of allowances. The staff received five months of bonus as well. So it is halal (legitimate) income,” he said when contacted by reporters. [The Star, 31/10/08]

Khir Toyo assured that the money he received was recorded in the account books which were checked and audited by the State Treasury. He also said he would welcome any investigation into the matter, including one by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) in order to clear his name of the bad press.

“They have accused me of so many things, including losing billions of ringgit over lop-sided deals. Prove it. I suggest they get an impartial party, such as the Auditor-General, to go through the books,” he challenged his accusers. [The Star, 31/10/08]

Khir Toyo also rebuked Liu's comments that the PKNS was establish for the betterment of the poor and needy (irregardless of race) and it was wrong for the former Chief Minister to accept such lucrative payments. Khir Toyo said Liu should first get his facts straight as the PKNS was formed solely for the development of the Malays.

“PKNS is a corporation set up to create new opportunities for Malays to own houses and to train Malay developers. It is among the handful of profitable state economic development corporations in the country. It is not a corporation purely to serve the needy,” Khir Toyo explained. [The Star, 31/08/08]

First of all, there seemed to be a linguistic mix-up of terminologies used by the Khir Toyo and his lot. Selangor UMNO Youth and PAS had protested against the appointment of a non-Malay to lead the agency; saying it would undermine the agency's purpose of developing the bumiputras. Khir Toyo himself said that the PKNS is a 'corporation set up to create new opportunities for Malays to own houses and to train Malay developers.' (Excerpts of such comments can be found in the article, "Pas joins UMNO in racist notion against PKR".)

Truth to be told, Khir Toyo was half right. One of PKNS's mission statements and vision was to encourage and create opportunities for bumiputra entrepreneurship and industry. However, UMNO and PAS must also understand that not all bumiputras are Malays. What Khir Toyo, UMNO and PAS were championing for when they cried foul over Low's appointment as PKNS general manager was nothing more but a selfish move to propogate their racist ideology of the ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy); leaving the other bumiputra groups out of their "struggle".

Even if the PKNS was made to benefit only the Malays, how does fattening the pockets of a handful of board members contribute to the development of the entire community? Nonetheless, when Khir Toyo said that the PKNS was 'not a corporation purely to serve the needy', that certainly explained a lot of things.

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