Ahad, 13 Oktober 2013

Anwar Ibrahim

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Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian Malaise

Posted: 12 Oct 2013 06:11 AM PDT

Foreign Affairs

Almost half a year has passed since Malaysia's contentious general election, in which the country's ruling party, Barisan Nasional, or National Front (BN), lost the popular vote for the first time since it took power in 1957 but managed to secure a narrow majority in parliament. Even that victory, many believe, was won through fraud: The BN appears to have gerrymandered and flown in phantom voters. When the election results were announced, Malaysians of all stripes took to the streets in protest; an estimated 120,000 showed up at a stadium outside the capital on May 8, the largest demonstration in recent memory. Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition, vowed never to surrender the fight, and in the months that followed, thousands gathered under the slogan "Black 505," referring to the date of the election, and wore black as a sign of mourning. Those who participated, and even some nonpartisan observers, believed that some form of political reform was just around the corner.

But the revolutionary spirit has largely died. Last week, Bersih, a nongovernmental organization campaigning for fair elections, set up a weeklong publicly funded People's Tribunal to hear from anyone willing to speak about their experiences with vote rigging, vote buying, and intimidation. In three months' time, it will produce recommendations about how to improve the electoral system. However, since the tribunal has no legal standing and the government has criticized its proceedings, change seems far-fetched. Bersih's latest effort is a last-ditch attempt on behalf of Malaysian citizens to articulate their grievances after months of more aggressive tactics that went nowhere.

After Malaysians fought so hard to oust the BN at the ballot box (an extraordinary number of opposition supporters canvassed neighborhoods throughout the country and took to the polls), it is strange that they would give up so quickly — and without a violent crackdown. The reversal seems all the more puzzling given the government's recent adoption of an increasingly conservative brand of Islam that many Malaysians do not support.

In another sense, though, the waning of the protest movement is no surprise at all. The stock market is at an all-time high and consumer spending is on the rise. The government lowered interest rates and set off a buying spree of home and cars. It also announced its intentions to increase cash payouts to the poor gradually, from500 ringgit ($150) to 1,200 ringgit ($392); build a million low-cost homes; and lower car prices by up to 30 percent over the next five years.

For Malays — Muslims who make up 60 percent of the population and form the BN's main constituency — economic policy has always trumped democratic practices. In the years after Malaysia won independence from the British, economic disparities stoked ethnic tensions. In 1969, the discontent incited race riots: Malay protesters decried the country's Chinese minority for controlling the bulk of the economy. Whereas Malays tended to live in more rural areas and work as field hands, the Chinese and Indians who had immigrated to urban areas developed successful businesses that made them very wealthy. The government responded to the Malay outcry with its so-called New Economic Policy, which attempted to redistribute wealth to Malays through quotas for public scholarships and employment in the civil service. This directly undermined the Chinese and Indian minority populations and continues to be a source of resentment in those communities today. The policy also granted Malays public funds to establish Islamic banks and schools that would protect their religious interests. Economic rebalancing and Islamization thus came hand in hand.

The result of the policy was a large, urban, and devout Malay middle class. That population is both financially secure and entitled to additional government protection; still, old habits die hard. "Malays have been led to depend on the government for many things, from basic economic security to ensuring that Malaysia remains a Muslim country," says Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, the managing editor of Projek Dialog, a Web site that promotes interfaith discussion. "For decades, Malays have relied on the state to safeguard their position in a very pluralistic setting."

The reliance has been mutual. The BN also depends on Malays to maintain its political power. However, the relationship has somewhat weakened as many Malays, particularly in urban centers, have started to feel increasingly financially stable. The government has realized that it cannot rely on economic policies alone to harness Malay support. And that is why experts such as Premesh Chandran, the founder of Malaysia's leading independent news site, Malaysiakini, believe the government has resorted to conservative religious rhetoric in recent months. According to him, inflammatory language sparks fears that non-Muslims are overrunning the country. In reality, however, the ethnic dynamics in Malaysia have not changed considerably over the last few decades. Non-Muslims are not in fact increasing in numbers or economic strength.

Still, on a daily basis, the BN government resorts to extremism. In July, two Malaysian bloggers were imprisoned without bail for posting a photo of themselves eating pork and greeting Malays fasting for Ramadan. Then, after a Malay animal trainer posted a video showing her washing dogs, which are considered unclean by Muslims, the government charged her with sedition. In August, a Singaporean hotel owner allowed Buddhists to use a Muslim prayer room on his property. The police arrested him, and the government revoked his resident status. And just a few weeks ago, Malaysia's home minister told journalists that use of "Allah" was the exclusive privilege of Muslims and that the government would prosecute any others who uttered it.

The government has also capitalized on international events, including the global war on terror, the Arab Spring, and recent developments in Syria, to reinforce its position as a defender of Islam. "In key moments of stress, politicians love to talk about how Malaysia is confronting the same problems as other Muslim countries," says Tom Pepinsky, an associate professor of government at Cornell University.

Malaysians have had varied reactions to the government's activities. Some conservative Malays have come out in support of the heavy-handed action, but there has also been a great deal of disapproval. Chandran tells me that a large segment of Malaysia's ethnicities, particularly in urban areas, realizes that the government's assertions are a cynical strategy to mobilize support. "The conservative mood in the country is really about the political situation," he says, "not so much about whether people are ideologically adhering to conservative interpretations of Islam or not."

The BN's methods are not working as well as they once did, however. The party began taking up strong Islamist positions before the election, and although those mobilized some conservative Malays, they did not help with the larger Malay population — and certainly did not win the government any points with Chinese and Indian voters. Before and after the election, Malaysians of all ethnicities and socio-economic classes seemed disenchanted with a political system that hinges so heavily on race and religion. Merdeka Center, an independent pollster, reported that a significant number of Malays voted against the BN in May. And fewer Chinese and Indians than usual ticked "Barisan Nasional" on the ballot. As the BN continues to lose its grip on Malaysia, it keeps returning to Islamism as a political strategy, which only serves to alienate the Malaysian electorate. For now at least, they are not willing to jeopardize economic stability to bring about a change. Still, as the election in May revealed, that might not last for long.

Anwar: With TPPA, profits will enrich only 1pc Malaysians

Posted: 10 Oct 2013 08:43 PM PDT


Malaysia stands to suffer unprecedented income disparity should it sign the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with the US, creating a clutch of super rich individuals while the rest of the nation suffers, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has warned.

In a rally against the global free trade deal here last night, the opposition leader claimed the US is attempting to impose its own brand of economics on the 11 prospective TPPA partners – which includes Malaysia – but said it is a policy that favours the rich and neglects the rest of the populace.

"If you look at the US economy, it earned profits in the trillions of dollars over the past 10 years but only 1 per cent of the population benefited. This is the economic policy that they want to spread to us," he said.

 A recent study by economists on income disparity in the United States found that the top 1 per cent took a record 19.3 per cent of the country's total income last year, the highest share of pre-tax income since 1927.

The study, based on figures compiled by the US Inland Revenue Board dating back to 1913, found that income growth for the top 1 per cent was astronomical over the past decade while the situation was a near plateau for the rest of the country.

Over nearly two decades from 1993 to 2012, the super-rich saw their pre-tax income grow by a whopping 86.1 per cent, while the rest of America saw marginal income growth of some 6.6 per cent over the same period.

The large income disparity sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement two years ago, which centred on the fact that 99 per cent of Americans gained little from the country's economic prosperity while the super rich made more money.

Anwar said it is important for Malaysia to reach out and make agreements with other countries to increase trade and foreign direct investment, but stressed that such agreements cannot be made at the expense of the interests of the country and its people.

He said the behaviour of the US in negotiating the TPPA with Malaysia and other developing countries is deplorable, especially when they are at the same time trying to cut a deal with the European Union.

"The TPPA shows how the US and rich countries are not consistent. In Europe, they are very open and reveal all the details about the negotiations. But in Malaysia, they say no, we cannot reveal anything… and of course Umno just blindly follows their instructions," Anwar said, taking a jab at the main party that is holding up the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Anwar also took a potshot at his ex-boss and longest-serving Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, admitting that though they both are against the TPPA, it is for very different reasons.

Anwar said his opposition to the controversial trade pact is due to the uncertainty that surrounds the interests of the nation and its people, while he claimed that Dr Mahathir is more interested in making sure nothing gets in the way of creating his own version of the "1 per cent".

"We reject the TPPA because it is merely a ploy to make the rich in the US richer, but we also don't want it to be replaced with a system where the rich in Malaysia are made richer.

"Yes, we are a trading nation, we need investments, and we need transfer of technology. But the TPPA is not in the national interests of Malaysia. We will not submit to the dictates of any big country, including the US," he said, to cheers from the 200-strong crowd assembled at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman.

Last night's gathering was a precursor to a planned protest against the US at KLCC at 2pm today.

The protest after Friday prayers, organised by pro-Pakatan Rakyat youth group Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia and undergraduate movement Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia, will direct its attention to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to attend the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit here today.

[PROGRAM] Forum Laporan Audit Negara: Kepincangan Urustadbir, Ketirisan & Rasuah

Posted: 10 Oct 2013 12:11 AM PDT


Forum Laporan Audit Negara: Kepincangan Urustadbir, Ketirisan & Rasuah.

11 Oktober 2013 (Jumaat)|8:30 Malam|Dewan Sivik Majlis Bandaran Petaling Jaya (MBPJ), Jalan Yong Shook Lin, Petaling Jaya, Selangor|

Ahli Panel:
YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
YB Ong Kian Ming
Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin

[PROGRAM] Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim Di Selangor Dan KL

Posted: 10 Oct 2013 12:08 AM PDT

1 – Majlis Ramah Mesra
Khamis, 10 Oktober 2013
Padang Puteri Central Park, Rawang, Selangor

2 – Program Bantah TPPA
Khamis, 10 Oktober 2013
Kelab Sultan Sulaiman, Kampung Baru

3 – Forum Laporan Audit Negara dan Ketirisan
Jumaat, 11 Oktober 2013
Dewan Sivik MBPJ


Southeast Asia: Dictatorships Are Gone, But Censorship Hangs On

Posted: 09 Oct 2013 12:34 AM PDT

Global Voices Online

Since the late 20th century, many Southeast Asian countries have moved from military dictatorships and unelected governments to representative governance systems. While these transitions have brought many improvements to national law and government accountability, certain old ways still remain.

Both off and online, censorship is still enforced in several countries through the use of draconian laws and strict media regulation. Media groups have consistently decried certain controversial laws and regulations as tools of media repression in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Myanmar.

Vietnam: Mass persecution of political bloggers

Thirty-five political bloggers are currently in prison in Vietnam. Continuing persecution suffered by bloggers and dissidents has highlighted the urgent need to reform laws that govern speech and online content in Vietnam.

Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which bans anti-state propaganda, is often used to detain individuals who oppose the government. Article 258 of the Criminal Code punishes misuse of "democratic freedoms to attack state interests and the legitimate rights and interests of collectives and individuals" and carries a sentence of seven years in prison. Last year, the nation’s Prime Minister issued a directive ordering a crackdown on "reactionary" blogs. Broadly speaking, vague provisions in the law allow authorities to make arbitrary arrests with little structure for accountability.

Early this month, Decree 72 took effect, putting into force a law that many activists have described as the country’s harshest legal offensive against freedom of information. The new regulation bans the sharing of news stories or so-called "compiled information". But the government claims it is intended only to protect intellectual property.

A  "press card" system frequently is used to control mainstream media. Former journalist Pham Doan Trang explains further:

No card, no access. Without a press card, reporters can’t hope to meet high-ranking officials, visit contacts at public offices or cover official conferences.

The State doesn’t need to kill journalists to control the media because by and large, Vietnam’s press card-carrying journalists are not allowed to do work that is worth being killed for.

Thailand: Insult the king, go to jail

Thailand’s most notorious media regulation is practiced through Article 112 of the country's Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law, which forbids anyone from insulting the king and members of the royal family.

It is described by many commentators as one of the world's "harshest" speech laws as it carries a minimum mandatory sentence of three years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 15 years for a single offense. The law is often invoked to censor web content and shut down websites. Aside from webmasters and editors, even ordinary citizens have been jailed for allegedly sending mobile phone text messages that insult the royal family.

Legal scholars from Thammasat University have argued that the law needs to be amended:

…the section provides no exemption for criticism, the expression of opinion or the expression of statements that are made in good faith and in order to uphold the Constitution and democratic system of government.

The Philippines: Threat of libel charges looms large

In the Philippines, the anti-cybercrime law imposes both direct and indirect threats to free expression, but the country’s criminal libel law may be the government’s worst threat to free expression overall.

Under the country's 83-year-old Revised Penal Code, libel is a criminal offense that mandates a prison term of six months to six years and/or a fine of 200 to 6,000 pesos (about 5 to 140 US dollars). But the fine is often much higher for those arrested. Veteran journalist Luis Teodoro has noted that "the law against libel has primarily been used to suppress free expression rather than to address media abuse."

As an alternative to criminalizing defamation in the country, media advocates have proposed a broad campaign for public media literacy and self-regulation to check and expose media abuses.

Singapore: Media licenses and overt censorship

Singapore’s new licensing scheme for news websites was quickly denounced by netizens as a censorship measure. Under the new rule, news websites that report on Singapore and have 50,000 unique IP views per month must secure a license and post a "performance bond" of 50,000 US dollars.

The government also maintains strict control of mainstream media. After working for three years as sub-editor in a leading Singapore newspaper, Mark Fenn exposed how censorship is enforced in the country:

Control at the paper is exercised both overtly and through more subtle means. Self-censorship, meanwhile, is ubiquitous.

…it was not uncommon for reporters to alter their stories at a very late stage because the "newsmaker" or a government department wanted to alter the wording of a quote or headline.

Myanmar: Legacy of censorship lingers on

In Myanmar, several media reforms were instituted in recent years, such as the dissolution of the censorship board, but the lingering effects of censorship are still felt and indirectly enforced. Hard-hitting journalists continue to face defamation charges and other harassment suits. The government is also accused of deliberately preventing the improvement of Internet connections in the country in an effort to control the spread of critical information.

The media situation in these Southeast Asian nations proves that political and economic reforms do not necessarily translate into greater media freedoms. Lawmakers who continue to preserve and promote archaic policies that undermine free expression must be held accountable their actions.

[PRESS STATEMENT] Laporan Ketua Audit 2012: Satu Deja Vu

Posted: 09 Oct 2013 12:25 AM PDT

9 OKTOBER 2013

Assalamualaikum, Selamat Pagi dan Salam Sejahtera.

KEADILAN merakamkan ucapan terima kasih di atas usaha Tan Sri Dato' Setia Hj Ambrin Buang dan pasukan beliau di Jabatan Audit Negara menerbitkan Laporan Ketua Audit Negara 2012.

Namun ianya bagaikan deja vu, satu igauan tak henti-henti. Laporan ini terus membuktikan pentadbiran kewangan dan aset kerajaan pusat yang teruk, pengurusan dan penyeliaan projek-projek kerajaan yang lemah, penyelewengan kewangan yang berterusan, dan yang paling utama – ketiadaan kesungguhan politik untuk menghentikan ketirisan dan pembaziran dalam pentadbiran kewangan negara.

KEADILAN mengamati satu perkembangan yang cukup jelas dan membimbangkan, iaitu sikap tak kisah yang berterusan dalam membelanjakan dana kerajaan oleh kementerian-kementerian dengan sebegini rupa, dan tiada langsung kesungguhan politik untuk menghukum pesalah berulang.

KEADILAN berpandangan kerajaan pusat tidak patut membenarkan penyelewengan kewangan seperti ini berterusan, lebih-lebih lagi tatkala Malaysia telah diberi amaran oleh badan-badan antarabangsa bahawa ia telah berbelanja secara berlebihan dan tiada langkah kukuh untuk menangani ketirisan dan pembaziran. Pihak kerajaan pusat tetap berdegil dengan sikap berbelanja tanpa mahu berusaha mengurangkan kos perbelanjaan tahunan dan berjimat – walaupun rakyat seringkali disuruh berbuat sedemikian.

Di sini KEADILAN mengangkat beberapa penemuan Jabatan Audit Negara di mana terbukti kerajaan pusat terus mengamalkan pembaziran:

1. RM 2.051 bilion dibelanjakan dari 2010 ke 2012 dari jumlah RM 3.689 bilion yang diperuntuk kepada Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia untuk membayar pengawal tidak bersenjata bagi mengawal sekolah-sekolah dan institusi-institusi pengajian. Walaupun ia berniat baik, namun ketiadaan sistem pemantauan telah mengakibatkan pengawal yang berumur dan tidak disahkan latar belakang, dan juga CCTV yang tidak berfungsi untuk diguna bagi memastikan keselamatan anak-anak kita di sekolah.

2. Kementerian Pengangkutan telah membelanjakan hampir RM 1.42 bilion dari jumlah peruntukan RM 1.47 bilion untuk menambahbaik Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kota Kinabalu. Walaupun lebih 96% peruntukan telah digunapakai, namun projek yang dimulakan pada tahun 1996 ini masih belum siap: balai ketibaan dan bilik air-bilik air didapati tidak memuaskan, dan 599 lubang telah dijumpai di landasan kapal terbang yang belum dibaiki sejak 2010.

3. Dari 2006 hingga Disember 2012, Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan telah membelanjakan RM 800.3 juta untuk mewujudkan Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999 bersama Telekom Malaysia. Laporan ini menunjukkan hampir RM 41 juta pembayaran yang tidak patut atau berlebihan, termasuk sesi latihan di Geneva untuk seorang pegawai kanan kementerian, berjumlah RM 303,813 untuk 4 hari.

4. Projek-projek infrastruktur lain seperti Projek Pembetungan Negara (RM 744 juta dibelanjakan), Kolej ATM di Port Dickson (RM 190 juta dibelanjakan), Pusat Pemprosesan, Pengeluaran dan Gudang di Bangi (RM 94 juta diperuntukkan) di mana kesemuanya mencatatkan kehilangan antara 16% dan 20% jumlah peruntukan akibat kelewatan projek disebabkan kekurangan perancangan awal dan pemantauan projek.

5. Kelewatan Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri memungut cukai dari syarikat-syarikat perniagaan mengakibatkan kehilangan yang dianggarkan bernilai RM 62 juta.

6. Pembelian 5 Beechcraft King Air 350 berjumlah RM 175.24 juta, yang tidak dapat dimanfaatkan kerana juruterbang dan juruteknik telah dilatih menggunakan modul latihan yang tidak diiktiraf Jabatan Penerbangan Awam Malaysia.

Antara contoh pembaziran dan budaya 'tak kisah' yang disebut tadi adalah seperti berikut:

1. Kementerian Belia dan Sukan membelanjakan RM 67.6 juta untuk Hari Belia 2012, peningkatan yang cukup tinggi dari peruntukan asal RM15 juta; di mana RM1.6 juta telah dibelanjakan untuk membawa masuk kumpulan K-pop.

2. Polis DiRaja Malaysia kehilangan aset berjumlah RM 1.33 juta, termasuk 156 pasang gari, 44 pucuk senjata api, 29 buah kenderaan, 26 set walkie-talkie, dan 22 buat radio.

3. Kasut buatan khas untuk pegawai Jabatan Kastam, yang lambat diagih mengakibatkan 7,659 pasang kasut dimusnahkan kerana tidak mengikut spesifikasi. Jumlah kehilangan dianggarkan bernilai RM 602,089.

KEADILAN menggesa SPRM menjalankan siasatan yang menyeluruh ke atas semua kes penyelewengan dan pembaziran ini, dan membawa mereka yang bersalah ke muka pengadilan. Pada masa yang sama, KEADILAN mengharapkan kerajaan pusat akan satu hari nanti mengubah budaya agar mereka yang didapati merancang pembaziran dan penyelewengan wang rakyat akan dihukum, dan bukan sahaja 'kambing-kambing hitam' yang dijadikan teladan.

KEADILAN mengulangi pendirian bahawa penyelewengan wang rakyat dan budaya pembaziran yang kita saksikan sekarang di dalam pentadbiran negara wajib dihentikan, lebih-lebih lagi apabila rakyat diminta berjimat dengan harga petrol yang meningkat dan GST yang mungkin akan diperkenal tidak lama lagi.




9 OCTOBER 2013

Assalamualaikum, Selamat Pagi and Salam Sejahtera,

We thank Tan Sri Dato' Setia Haji Ambrin Buang and his team at the National Audit Office for the release of the Auditor General's Report 2012.

It is déjà vu all over again. The report continues to show a consistent pattern on the lack of care in managing government finances and assets, weak management and supervision of government projects, continued financial malpractices and more importantly the lack of political resolve and to stop all leakages and inefficiencies in managing government finances.

Another glaring and very worrying trend, is the continued lackadaisical attitude in spending government money by ministries and the lack of political will by the current government to curb repeat offenders despite its continued calls for transformation.

It is totally unacceptable for the government to continue allowing such financial malpractices especially when Malaysia has been cautioned internationally for overspending and not taking enough steps in curbing such practices. Despite repeated caution by the investment community, the government continues the old habit of spending as long as it is within the allocation, rather than thinking to reduce its spending allocation and being more frugal.

We wish to highlight a few main findings by the National Audit Office where the government continues to spend without having the necessary controls in place, which had resulted in either wastages or leakages.

1. A sum of RM 2.051 billion was spent over 2010 to 2012 out of a RM 3.689 billion allocation by the Ministry of Education to introduce non-armed security personnel at our schools and national institutions. While the intent is indeed noble, the lack of monitoring has allowed over-aged, non-security vetted personnel and non-functioning CCTV's to be trusted as means of keeping our children safe in schools.

2. Ministry of Transport spent almost RM 1.42 billion from an already revised allocation of RM 1.47 billion to upgrade the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Despite spending over 96% of a revised allocation, this project initiated since 2006 is far from completion with arrival halls and passenger toilets in unsatisfactory condition, 599 potholes were found on the runway and taxiway since 2010, which are not yet repaired.

3. From 2006 until December 2012, Ministry of Education, Communication and Culture spent RM 800.3 million with Telekom Malaysia to introduce the Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999. This is to formalise 999 as the only formal number for emergency services. The report highlights a total of RM 41 million of improper payments and overpaid items, including a paid training trip to Geneva for a Senior Ministry Official, which amounted to RM 303,813 for 4 days.

4. Other infrastructure build projects such as the Projek Pembetungan Negara (RM 744 million spent), Kolej ATM in Port Dickson (RM 190 million spent) and Pusat Pemprosesan, Pengeluaran dan Gudang in Bangi (RM 94 million allocation) all recorded losses of between 16% to 20% from the total spent due to project delays arising from the lack of initial planning and project monitoring.

5. Delays in collection of company taxes by the Inland Revenue Board had losses estimated at RM 62 million.

6. The acquisition of 5 Beechcraft King Air 350 costing RM 175.24 million, which could not be used effectively since the pilots and technicians were trained using training modules not recognised by the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation.

Amongst the smaller wasteful expenditures and examples of the lackdaisical attitudes are;

1. Ministry of Youth and Sports spent a total of RM 67.6 million for Hari Belia 2012 from an initial allocation of RM 15 million; where RM 1.6 million was used to hire a K-pop group.

2. Polis DiRaja Malaysia lost assets under its custody amounting to RM 1.33 million. Examples of these assets are 156 handcuffs, 44 firearms, 29 vehicles, 26 walkie-talkie, 22 radio.

3. Custom-made shoes for Customs Department officials, which were not distributed on time and resulted in 7659 pairs being demolished because quality specifications were not met. The total loss reported was RM 602,089.

We urge MACC to conduct a thorough investigation on the alleged financial malpractices and to bring the culprits to justice. However, we also yearn for the day when the government would act to penalise the 'sharks' responsible for these malpractices rather than only prosecuting the smaller 'fries'.

We repeat that these ongoing financial malpractices and lackadaisical attitude of the government in spending the country's money are totally unacceptable especially when the rakyat are now being burdened with rising fuel prices and the possible introduction of the GST.



Malaysian Party Polls: ‘Fight for the Next Generation’

Posted: 09 Oct 2013 12:12 AM PDT

Asia Sentinel

A stuttering UMNO holds party election on Oct. 19

Malaysia’s United Malays National Organization – the world’s longest-ruling political party – is to hold its triennial intraparty elections on Oct. 19 in a contest that one UMNO source calls “a fight for the next generation in the party.”

For the first time, the race, with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the thick of it as potential kingmaker, is open to 140,000 members of the party’s 3.4 million rank and file, instead of polling a few hundred top cadres. Despite a considerable lack of enthusiasm, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be re-elected without challenge as party president, with Muhyiddin Yassin remaining as deputy president and deputy prime minister.

From there down, however, it gets more interesting, and becomes a test of whether UMNO is willing to give up the kind of corrupting influences that got the party in so much trouble with the voters in May, when for the first time since 1969 the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition lost the popular vote to the opposition despite preserving its position in parliament, 133-89, via a thoroughgoing gerrymandering of the districts.

Najib’s post-election pledges to clean out corruption have largely been met with derision. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a party elder whom few listen to, recently wrote that the challenges facing Malaysia include “a need for a clean government of integrity to combat the rampant and pervasive corruption. During the past decade, reports say Malaysia lost US$338 billion in illicit money outflows and 50 percent of Malaysian companies report they lose business opportunities because rival companies pay bribes to decision-makers.”

“I would say it is a fight between Khairy and Mukhriz.” the source said. Although they are not facing off against each other, that would be Kedah Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir, the 49-year-old son of the former Prime Minister, who is seeking to become one of the party’s three vice presidents, probably as an eventual attempt to springboard to the premiership now held by Najib, and Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is despised by the Mahathir wing of the party. Khairy is the chairman of UMNO Youth, the youth wing of the party.

Khairy, now 37, was previously a target not only of Mahathir but of Najib, partly because he was a Badawi representative but also because they accused him of using his relationship to Abdullah Badawi to gain special favors. However, he has since become close to both Najib and Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, which is believed to guarantee his return as both youth and sports minister and UMNO Youth head.

Although the 88-year-old former premier Mahathir remains the most popular figure in the party, his influence is under severe strain. Today, the betting is that Mukhriz will finish out of the running for the vice presidency, although he is said to have been gaining ground in recent days. And Khairy is expected to retain his seat as chairman of the youth wing – an eventuality for the former prime minister that could be called a worst-case scenario.

Najib is seeking to maintain the current slate of three vice presidents – Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal against an onslaught of three challengers, the most visible of whom is Mukhriz.

Well-placed sources in Kuala Lumpur say Mukhriz and the challengers are likely to lose out to the incumbents, although one source told Asia Sentinel: “Much as it’s tough for Mukhriz, I wouldn’t write him off. He might just squeak in.”

At Najib’s behest the three incumbents have been traveling the country as a team, practicing the kinds of money politics that the party had publicly eschewed, while Mukhriz, elected in June as the Chief Minister of his father’s home state of Kedah, has been attempting to pull off a victory without practicing the same kind of spending.

Mahathir and his allies continue to blame a weakened Najib for the electoral debacle in May, accusing him of a vain attempt to get ethnic Chinese and Indian voters to support the Barisan at a time when the other races, turned off by rabid Malay nationalist politics, had clearly abandoned it.

Only by appealing to fears of Chinese political as well as economic dominance to the 60.1 percent ethnic Malay majority and allied party machines in the East Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak was the Barisan able to squeak through with its win. At that, the two component parties, the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress, both riven with factionalism and charges of corruption, were nearly destroyed. UMNO preserved the Barisan’s primacy only by winning 88 seats in 2013 compared to 79 in 2008 as the rest of the barisan collapsed.

Should Khairy win, which looks likely, and should Mukhriz lose, which looks somewhat less likely, Kuala Lumpur sources say, that raises the question whether Mahathir and his allies will go after Najib’s scalp. He has already become the target of a wide range of Mahathir-aligned bloggers demanding his ouster. He has also been crippled not only by the Barisan’s relative loss but by a long-running scandal over the seven-year-old murder of a 28-year-old Mongolian woman by two of his bodyguards. After years of stalled appeals, the two bodyguards were freed by an appellate court in August, a move that has had many UMNO figures “holding our noses,” said one.

Najib also shocked many party stalwarts by recently reappointing Shahrizat Abdul Jalil a special advisor to the Prime Minister on women’s affairs, a ministerial position. While she is said to be extremely popular with the women’s wing of the party, she was forced to step down as a senator amid allegations that members of her family had looted the National Feedlot Corporation, a publicly funded project to rear cattle by halal, or Islamic religious methods.

The scandal became universally known as Cowgate. Mohamad Salleh Ismail, Shahrizat’s husband was jailed and charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust as well as misusing nearly RM50 million of a RM250 million soft loan to pay for expensive overseas trips, a Mercedes limousine and luxury apartments. Although he was arrested more than 18 months ago, Mohamad has yet to face a day in court on trial.

Shahrizat defending her post as women’s wing chief in the upcoming polls against Wanita chief post in the upcoming Umno polls against Azalina Othman Said, a former television talk show host, adviser to a variety of associations and a member of Sisters in Islam, which fights for Muslim women’s rights and equality – and a Badawi appointee as Youth and Sports Minister from 2004 to 2008.

“What you must remember is that even though the Barisan didn’t do well, UMNO did come back with more seats in parliament than previously, and Najib did that,” said a think tank operator in Kuala Lumpur. “He won the election without Chinese votes. What he has to do is look after the majority of Malays, have to ringfence them, secure them. What happens in these elections is going to be very interesting. It has far bigger implications for what the Chinese are going to do.”

Defeaning silence from BN partners after racial slurs by Umno leaders

Posted: 09 Oct 2013 12:07 AM PDT


Silence. That seems to be the stand taken by Barisan Nasional component parties in light of some leaders in Umno who play the racial card in the run-up to its October 19 polls.Despite claiming to represent Malaysians, none of Umno's partners in the ruling coalition had immediately chided Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam for their insensitive remarks against the non-Malays, with the exception of MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu.

Contacted by The Malaysian Insider, these leaders only voiced their unhappiness on the recent remarks by Umno leaders.

Their stand is not surprising, noted Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies deputy director Ooi Kee Beng, who said such continued silence would only exacerbate their decline.

At the 13th general election, BN again failed to get the two-thirds majority in the 222-seat parliament, following its performance at the 2008 national polls.

Although Umno managed to increase its parliamentary seats from 79 in 2008 to 88 at the May 5 general election, other component parties like MCA and Gerakan fared badly.

"All this shows an ingrained passivity and a lack of bold leadership within these parties. What started out as an Alliance idea of equal partners have over the years been replaced with full Umno hegemony within BN and this is the final result," Ooi said, adding that he would be surprised if Umno candidates were ticked off by their coalition partners for being seditious.

Ahmad Zahid had blamed Indians as the culprits in gang-related crimes, saying their victims were “mostly Malays”. Mohd Ali, meanwhile, had accused the Chinese of being involved in illegal businesses.

Both leaders are vying for the vice-presidency in the Umno polls, with observers noting that such remarks were made to pander to the Umno gallery.

Gerakan acting president Datuk Chang Ko Youn said he had told Umno’s top leadership that racially-sensitive comments should not be tolerated.

“Just because the parties are having elections does not mean the candidates have the licence to make remarks that hurt the feelings of other communities.

“They have to bear in mind that whatever they say or do will boomerang back five years down the line in time for the 14th general election,” he said.

Mouthing off racial comments to gain votes would not be fair to other component parties, said Chang, who said these parties would then bear the brunt of such actions at the next general election.

Chang appealed to candidates to have more restraint and be more responsible in their words, saying they risked undermining BN’s efforts to woo back support from other communities.

MIC Youth chief T. Mohan, who insisted he had been vocal in the current storm, called on Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to reprimand politicians who had hurt the feelings of Malaysians.

“We don’t want the Indians and the other races to be victimised for the sake of Umno elections. They should not be going after other communities just to make it seem like they are championing their own race,” he said.

Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party secretary-general Datuk Nelson Balan Rining also voiced his concerns, saying many Umno leaders "seemed to ignore the fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial country". While Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Tan Sri Dr James Masing advised Umno leaders to try to be moderates.

“People outside Umno, the non-Malays, are already asking about the leaders we have. This is a very unhealthy state of affairs," Masing added.


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