Friday, December 23, 2011

Two fall guys and a fall gal?

Former Selangor Mentri Besar Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo was sentenced to 12 months' jail today for abusing his power as Chief Minister by buying a bungalow worth RM6.5 million for RM3.5 million and has filed an appeal.

Soon after the court announced its decision, Dr Khir told Malaysian Insider that he was "made a political fall guy".

The former Selangor Mentri Besar has maintained his innocence, insisting that the deal was at market value and on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis, the Malaysian Insider reported.

If what Dr Khir said is true, then the political leaders could have decided to make him the sacrificial lamb to show the people that the Barisan Nasional government is walking the talk regarding tackling of corruption involving those in positions of power and even those from Umno.

This could possibly be the way - at least in the minds of the Barisan political strategists - to win back some votes in the coming general elections.

The question now is whether there will be another political fall guy and a fall gal.

It is interesting to note that another event with far-reaching consequences occurred today - Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers raided the office of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) at Solaris Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

NFCorp runs the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) in Gemas, which has been at the centre of a storm of controversy ever since the Auditor-General highlighted the publicly-funded cattle raising project as “a mess” in his report this year.

It is headed by Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Salleh Ismail, husband to Women, Family and Community Minister and Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil. Their children are also directors in the company.

Today’s raid follows an announcement by MACC yesterday that it would investigate allegations the NFC had misappropriated government funds, despite previously saying it would not probe the matter, the Malaysian Insider reported.

The MACC also confirmed yesterday it had remanded a businessman, said to be a Datuk, for questioning in relation to the case.

The 45-year-old suspect had earlier been detained by police for allegedly trying to bribe senior CCID officers believed to be involved in the NFC probe, reported the Malaysian Insider.

Could this MACC raid mean that someone at the top has decided to apply pressure to 'convince' Datuk Seri Shahrizat to resign? After all several political leaders including former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have either blatantly said or blatantly hinted that she should resign.

And who's the most likely candidate to be the other possible fall guy?

On Jan 27 next year, former Transport Minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik will know whether he has to enter his defence in the Port Klang Free Zone trial.

Dr Ling was charged in July last year with knowingly deceiving the Cabinet into approving land purchase for the Port Klang Free Zone, which resulted in wrongful losses for the government, according to the Malaysian Insider.

The former Minister also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the purchase at RM25 psf and the 7.5 per cent interest rate were acknowledged and agreed to by the Valuation and Property Services Department despite knowing that there was no such agreement.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Umno's attempt to split PAS?

Things have come to a head in PAS with Selangor executive councillor Datuk Dr Hasan Ali and former deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa openly criticising the party for deviating from its Islamic path.

Then again, this confrontation is not really surprising or unexpected given the sequence of events and the newspapers and TV station involved in the developments leading to the very public spat that has been played up by Barisan-controlled newspapers.

The Malaysian Insider reported that Datuk Dr  Hasan Ali and Nasharudin Mat Isa criticised the party for ostensibly deviating from its Islamic agenda, during interviews with Umno-linked Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian.

"Hasan has also been featured almost nightly on TV3, criticising the party that removed him as Selangor chief after its muktamar in June," The Malaysian Insider reported. It is widely known that TV3 is also Umno-linked.

In May, Utusan had reported (falsely) that Christian pastors were teaming up with DAP to install a Christian as Prime Minister and have Christianity as the state religion instead of Islam.

On Aug 3,  the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) carried out a search during a dinner, organised by non-governmental organisation Harapan Komuniti, at the Dream Centre Complex in Petaling Jaya belonging to Damansara Utara Methodist Church following a tip-off about an alleged attempt to proselytise Muslims at the event.

Two other Umno-linked newspapers - Berita Harian and Harian Metro - reported that Christian organizations were carrying out covert missions to convert poverty-stricken Muslims by offering them cash, free food and housing and the reports appeared days after the JAIS raid on DUMC.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had quickly expressed regret over the raid and gave his assurance that the Pakatan Rakyat-contolled Selangor state government fully respects freedom of religion and rights of religious groups to manage their affairs in the state.

But Hasan broke ranks to support the JAIS raid.

By then, the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fit into the bigger picture and it became 'visible' that all the plots - from the false allegations about Christians plotting with DAP (which is a member of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition) to instal a Christian Prime Minister and have Christianity as the national religion to the allegations about Christians using money, food and housing to proselytise Muslims - were crafted to cause a split between the moderates and the so-called ulamaks in PAS using the minority and hapless Christians as the bait.

Hence complaints by Malaysian Christians that the political leaders went on a Christian bashing spree to win Malay and Muslim votes seem justified.

Now the question is how the Malay and Muslim voters perceive the situation - do they see the criticism of PAS by Hasan and Nasharudin as justified or do they see it as an obvious Umno-orchestrated attempt to split the party?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cows in the condos

Where's the best place in Malaysia to rear cows? In condos, it would seem.

The cows-in-the-condo issue is the kind of scandal that the Najib administration does not need, especially now when the next general elections are to held within months.

Essentially the issue began when the Government approved a loan of RM250 million at an interest rate of 2% (i.e. a very soft loan) to the National Feedlot Corp (NFC), which happened to be controlled by family members of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Her husband Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Salleh Ismail and their three kids run the 'cattle' show.

Sure they started a cow business in the form of a cattle farm in Negri Sembilan, but somehow 'excess' cash was invested in two luxurious condos - each costing RM6.9 million -  in Bangsar which the NFC managers claim are cash cows since they generate rental income of RM18,000 each.

The entire issue was exposed not by the Opposition parties but a government agency - the Auditor-General had described NFC as a mess, and that it was poorly managed and had met only 41.1% of its target for 2010 in its latest report.

But Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar quickly defended Shahrizat's family business and said that the project was a success and had met its targets.

Soon after that politicians from both sides of the divide jumped into the fray - the Barisan folks obviously defending Shahrizat and her family and the Pakatan blokes attacking them.

Malaysians who had no family connections with the top leaders merely tucked into their beef rendang or beef noodles and watched the proceedings.

This kind of 'family' business is exactly the type that most Malaysians are unhappy about since it benefits families of politicians only.

Thus the grouses of Malaysians - even from bumiputras - that they do not benefit from Government decisions would seemingly be justified.

One can argue that there is rental income and there is no loss. On the other hand, one can also argue that public funds meant for cattle rearing should not be invested in condos (unless, of course, one can rear cows in a condo).

But the fact remains that the entire cow business has smeared the reputation of the Barisan government especially with a Minister refuting the findings of a government agency tasked with auditing the finances and operations of the government.

With the elections coming soon, the Barisan government would need to lock up the 'cows' that are still in the closet while the Opposition - of course - would want to break the lock preventing all the 'cows' from stampeding out.

And the average Malaysians? They will still eat beef noodles and beef curry and beef rendang while waiting for more (cow) shit to hit the fan.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Greek tragicomedy

Well, if you thought the situation in Malaysia is bad, you have to read this...

Author Michael Lewis on the Greek Tragicomedy

Published: Monday, 31 Oct 2011
By: Bob Pisani
CNBC Reporter

I was on Power Lunch recently with Michael Lewis, author of "Boomerang" and many other books. "Boomerang" is a series of essays on the problems that Iceland, Ireland and others have had due to the global debt  crisis. I spent the weekend reading the book, and there is a very amusing chapter on a visit he made to Greece a short while ago. Excerpts below.

On the true debt of Greece: "In addition to its roughly $400 billion (and growing) of outstanding government debt, the Greek number cruncher had just figured out that their government owed another $800 billion or more in pensions. Add it all up and you got about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek….And those were just the official numbers; the truth is surely worse."

On the absurd wages paid in the government sector: "In just the past twelve years the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms — and that number doesn't take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three time the average private-sector job."  

On the comical inefficiencies of the public sector: "The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 milion euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses…Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece's rail passengers into taxicabs: it's still true."

On who caused the debt crisis in Greece: "The biggest problem the banks had was that they had lent roughly 30 billion euros to the Greek government--where it was stolen or squandered. In Greece the banks didn't sink the country. The country sank the banks."

On the banality of tax cheating: "The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year — which meant, because incomes below that amount weren't taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all….'If the law was enforced," the tax collector said, "every doctor in Greece would be in jail.'"

"One reason no one is ever prosecuted — apart from the fact that prosecution would seem arbitrary, as everyone is doing it — is that the Greek courts take up to fifteen years to resolve tax cases…Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the activity in the Greek economy that might be subject to income tax goes unrecorded…"

On the supposed deception the Greeks used to get into the euro zone in 2001:

"In particular they needed to show budget deficits under 3 percent of their gross domestic product, and inflation running at roughly German levels. In 2000, after a flurry of statistical manipulation, Greece hit the targets. To lower the budget deficit the Greek government moved all sorts of expenses (pensions, defense expenditures) off the books. To lower Greek inflation the government did things like freeze prices for electricity and water and other government-supplied goods, and cut taxes on gas, alcohol, and tobacco. Greek government statisticians did things like remove (high-priced) tomatoes from the consumer price index on the day inflation was measured."

"In 2001, Greece entered the European Monetary Union, swapped the drachma for the euro, and acquired for its debt an implicit European (read German) guarantee. Greeks could now borrow long-term funds at roughly the same rate as Germans — not 18 percent but 5 percent."

"Here, in 2001, entered Goldman Sachs, which engaged in a series of apparently legal but nonetheless repellent deals designed to hide the Greek government's true level of indebtedness…The investment bankers also taught the Greek government officials how to securitize future receipts from the national lottery, highway tolls, airport landing fees, and even funds granted to the country by the European Union. Any future stream of income that could be identified was sold for cash up front and spent."

On witnessing a general strike to protest raising the retirement age: "Thousands upon thousand of government employees take to the streets to protest the bill. Here is Greece's version of the Tea Party: tax collectors on the take, public-school teachers who don't really teach, well-paid employees of bankrupt state railroads whose trains never run on time, state hospital workers bribed to buy overpriced supplies."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Playing a high-risk high-stakes political game?

PAS: Umno used Himpun to revive unity talks

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

October 24, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR — PAS today accused Umno of using last weekend’s Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun) as a platform to revive failed unity talks between both parties, using “unfounded” threats of Christianisation as a basis for inter-party co-operation.

Selangor PAS deputy commissioner Khalid Samad told The Malaysian Insider that Himpun’s organisers had tried to portray Islam as being “under siege” just so that PAS members would attend and support the event together with Umno.

“Although Umno has stated that they have nothing to do with the gathering, I think it’s obvious when you have affiliated groups like Perkasa claiming the event unified PAS and Umno.

“It’s yet another attempt in pushing for unity talks between both PAS-Umno... you play the religion card with PAS, you try to pit us against non-Muslims, to make us look extremist... they (Umno) are trying again,” said Khalid.

Malay rights group Perkasa lauded the success of Himpun, saying it unified Muslims even from opposing political factions with the presence of leaders including PAS’s Datuk Dr Hasan Ali.

PAS has said it did not support the gathering, but did not stop its members from attending the event as individuals.

“I think those tied to Umno are making a mountain out of a molehill, just because one PAS leader attended the event it does not mean PAS and Umno are now together in arms.

“Why stoke religious tension? There is no concrete proof of Christianisation threats. We’d best use our time and effort to improving other things in this country — fighting corruption, governance,” said the Shah Alam MP.

Himpun was organised by various right-wing religious groups who called for Muslims to rise up and fight the “challenge of Christianisation”.

The mass rally was mooted following the controversial August 3 raid by Selangor Islamic authorities on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), where it was alleged that Christians were converting Muslims.

It is illegal to proselytise Muslims in Malaysia.

Christian leaders have denied claims that Christians were attempting to convert Muslims and have called Himpun’s fight “irrelevant”.

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi said that public support for Himpun over the weekend showed that it was time for the government to enact and enforce Islamic laws in the country.

He said the Barisan Nasional (BN) government should at least “recognise” and “support” Kelantan’s efforts to establish hudud.

“I believe the time is right for Umno to state their preparation to enact Islamic laws because it is part of the demands made by Umno NGOs who supported the Himpunan Sejuta Umat.”

Are pieces of the puzzle now slowly fitting together to reveal the hidden agenda behind recent controversial events?
Are the minority Christians being made the bogeyman in a high-risk high-stakes political game orchestrated by the party in power to split PAS and Pakatan Rakyat?
Are lies published by 'respectable' newspapers controlled by certain political parties so that Muslims can be pitted against Christians? Like Selangor PAS deputy commissioner Khalid Samad said: "You play the religion card with PAS, you try to pit us against non-Muslims, to make us look extremist... they (Umno) are trying again.”

Is there no regard for the truth in the pursuit of political power? Will the name of God be used in vain by politicians for their own selfish ends?

Friday, October 14, 2011

DUMC raid: Sultan's statement welcomed

Now that there has been some kind of amicable solution to the issue of the raid carried out by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church, it is hoped that everybody - especially the politicians - will realise that such issues are highly inflammatory in a multi-racial nation like Malaysia.

On Wednesday, the Damansara Utama Methodist Church welcomed the statement by the Sultan of Selangor that no one would be charged in connection with the search by JAIS officers at the church two months ago, The Star reported.

Senior pastor Dr Daniel Ho stressed that activities organised by DUMC were meant to serve the community and welfare of Malaysians regardless of race, creed or religion.

“We sincerely ask that all religious communities and places of worship be treated with the utmost respect and not be intruded upon,” he said.

Dr Ho said the church had worked within the boundaries of law and public order.

“We call on all Malaysians to continue to live in peace, tolerance and harmony. We also call on all Christians to continue to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God,” he said.

JAIS carried out the search during a function, organised by non-governmental organisation Harapan Komuniti, at the Dream Centre Complex belonging to DUMC on Aug 3 following a tip-off about an alleged attempt to proselytise Muslims at the dinner.

On Monday, the Sultan had ruled that JAIS' raid on DUMC was legitimate.

But Sultan Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said that although JAIS had found evidence of attempts to subvert Muslims, it was “insufficient” for further legal action, the Malaysian Insider reported.

The state ruler said therefore no one would be prosecuted, and JAIS will provide counselling to the Muslims who were present in the church during the raid.

“JAIS has submitted to Us the full report of the search carried out at the Dream Centre Complex, Section 13, Petaling Jaya as well as the subsequent actions taken by JAIS. We have thoroughly read in detail the said report and we are satisfied that the actions of JAIS were correct and did not breach any laws enforceable in Selangor,” said a statement from the Selangor Sultan.

JAIS has said that it “inspected” the evangelical church after acting on a complaint that participants at the dinner were trying to convert the 12 Muslims present at the function to Christianity. Proselytising Muslims is against the law in Malaysia.

The raid on the church was the second blatant confrontration by the authorities with Christians, who are a minority community in Muslim Malaysia.

The first was the accusation in May that pastors were teaming up with DAP to install a Christian as Prime Minister and have Christianity as the state religion instead of Islam. This episode was blown out of proportion by Utusan Malaysia, a Malay newspaper with links to Umno. And the accusation was later proven to be a lie.

Two other Umno-linked newspapers - Berita Harian and Harian Metro - reported that Christian organizations were carrying out covert missions to convert poverty-stricken Muslims by offering them cash, free food and housing and the reports appeared days after the JAIS raid on DUMC.

Such incidents will only work against the 1Malaysia concept championed by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

It cannot be confirmed if these incidents were linked to political strategies, but politicians and their backroom boys must be reminded that religion should not be misused for political purposes. 

Politicians and political strategists should take heed of an old proverb - he who plays with fire will get burnt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Censuring censorship

The Barisan Nasional government has confirmed that they are really dinosaurs living in the Dark Ages by blacking out parts of an article in the Economist magazine (July 16 edition) about the Bersih 2.0 rally.

In this digital age when information flows so freely on the Internet that even authoritarian governments in China and Myanmar have found it hard to curb the flow of online news and views, the Malaysian government has sadly made itself look comical and outdated.

Those in power in the Malaysian Home Ministry should ask themselves these questions:

1) Who reads the Economist?

The Economist is an upmarket magazine in English that is aimed at the intelligentsia. Would the fisherman, farmer, small-holder, Felda settler or trader (otherwise known as the rural voters) read the Economist? Or do they read Utusan Malaysia or Berita Harian or Harian Metro or Kosmo or the vernacular newspapers/magazines?

Surely the Economist would be too upmarket for them. How many of these rural folks are fluent  in English anyway?

2) Would the reader of the Economist in Malaysia have access to the Internet?

The Economist readers in Malaysia are the urban English-educated elite. They are mostly  degree-holders with high-paying jobs. They are the professionals in the corporate sector. They are the movers and shakers of the economy. They are also political leaders. They have access to the Internet in the office, at home and on the move.

3) If parts of an Economist story are blacked out would Malaysian readers just make a few clicks and go to the Economist's website to read the same story in full?

Of course they would. I did.

4) Can the Home Ministry censor the same story on the Internet?

You gotta be kidding.

So the action by the Home Ministry is counter-productive as it would actually encourage the reader of the Economist to read the web version to find out what was censored.

BTW, only a few thousand copies of the Economist are sold in Malaysia which is peanuts compared to the local newspapers (mostly controlled by Barisan component parties) and magazines that sell by the hundreds of thousands.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Jews are coming!

When claims were made that the Bersih organisers were financed by foreign Christians and after the police claimed that Bersih supporters were trying to revive Communism, I was actually wondering why the authorities had not blamed the Jews.

It had to come - yesterday, Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia wrote in its editorial that the Bersih rally could lead to Jews and Israel infiltrating Malaysia to topple the government.

According to The Malaysian Insider, the Malay newspaper made the claim in reference to former IGP Tan Sri Rahim Noor's assertion that there were parties who wanted any country that was against Jews and Israel to be toppled.

So now the authorities have blamed almost all the usual suspects - Christians, Communists, Jews and Israel - for somehow or other being linked to the Bersih rally and trying to topple the government. The only 'rogue' that has not been blamed yet is Singapore.

All this is nothing new - and that is the crux of the problem.

The list of rogues is nothing new - it is so old-fashioned, so archaic, so unbelievable. Communists making a comeback? Come on, surely the authorities can do better than that?

In this age of FaceBook, Twitter and new media, such archaic accusations can be perceived as comical.

One may argue that these accusations are aimed at an older, more conservative and rural Malay/Iban/Kadazan audience (and voters) and the urban Twitterers are not the target 'market'.

If that is the case, then the Barisan Government is not touching base with the youths - the college kids, the twenty-somethings, the new gen of voters.

These FaceBookers are impressionable and at the moment they have a bad impression of the Barisan-led Government.

Barisan is taking a huge risk if its leaders think they can depend on the rural, conservative Malay/Iban/Kadazan masses to get them past the post first because the urban and young Malay/Iban/Kadazan voters will try their best to influence their parents back in their kampungs, hometowns and longhouses.

Barisan Nasional needs desperately to connect with the young, urban FB/Twitter generation of voters because they represent the new voice which will get increasingly louder as Malaysia becomes more urbanised.

Barisan may still win the next general election by banking on the rural, conservative (and ageing) voters, but what about the general election after that?

Management gurus will tell you that the rural, conservative (and ageing) community is a 'dying market' or 'shrinking market or 'sunset market' whilst the young, urban FB/Twitter kids represent the 'market with enormous potential' or 'growth market'.

From the management guru's perspective, unless Barisan Nasional explores the 'Blue Ocean' it will probably sail into the sunset as its 'shrinking market' gets smaller and smaller.

Monday, July 11, 2011

One-leg-kick Perkasa?

After all the action is over, after telling his members (if there are any) to "stroll around" Titiwangsa park while the Bersih 2.0 rally took place on Saturday, Perkasa's Ibrahim Ali now wants the citizenship of Bersih leader Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasen to be revoked.

One wonders why Ibrahim was absent from the rally when he had proudly declared that he would stage a huge Perkasa rally to counter the Bersih rally.

And when things fizzled out and Perkasa went limpid, his excuse was that Perkasa did not want to hold a rally as that would have insulted the monarchy.

Is it possible that Perkasa did not hold a rally because it could not round up enough supporters to do so? After all even the Umno Youth 'Patriot' rally in Bukit Bintang managed to attract only hundreds - one report said about 500 turned up - of Umno Youth members. In comparison, there were tens of thousands of Malaysians who turned up for the Bersih rally in various parts of Kuala Lumpur.

Could it be possible that Perkasa has been exposed to be a one-man show? That the Malay supremacist body is merely a - what the Chinese would call - one-leg-kick (yat kiok taak) outfit?

Could that be why not a single Perkasa supporter was seen strolling around in Titiwangsa park on Saturday?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bersih 2.0: Malaysians not meek anymore

The Bersih 2.0 rally that took place in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday has shown glaringly that Malaysians are no longer afraid to express themselves.

Despite the police setting up checkpoints, locking down the city centre, accusing Bersih supporters of reviving Communism, arresting Bersih supporters even before the rally, banning the leaders of Bersih and Pakatan Rakyat from entering the city centre and even shutting the main bus terminals, tens of thousands of Malaysians - of all races - somehow or other made their way to the centre of Kuala Lumpur to fight for clean and fair elections.

Tear gas and water cannons were fired at the protestors in several spots and there were lots of 'CNN moments' for the TV audiences in Malaysia and overseas. Simultaneous Bersih demonstrations were held in other cities in the world.

Though the Barisan Nasional government downplayed the protest by insisting that only 6,000 (I do not know why the police like this number as it is often used after large demonstrations) people turned up, the photographs all over Facebook, blogs, online news sites and the videos on YouTube reveal that tens of thousands turned up and that the official figure is pure fiction.

The Barisan Nasional government and police must realise that Malaysians are not stupid anymore - they no longer believe the so-called 'facts' and 'figures' that are published in the mainstream media.

Insisting only 6,000 turned up while the photos and videos show otherwise would only serve to turn Malaysians more cynical and make them view the mainstream media as the funnies.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his underlings must now take note with great seriousness that tens of thousands of Malaysians showed that they are not afraid anymore to fight for what they think is right, they are not afraid anymore of high-handed police methods, they are not afraid of the tear gas and water cannons, they are not afraid of fighting against repression.

And though some newspaper reports had it that it was a very Malay protest, there were lots of Chinese among the protestors. There were lots of Indians too. Indeed it was a 1Malaysia kind of demonstration.

The Barisan government must now find out why normally-meek Malaysians have become brazenly defiant, why they are willing to fight for ideals and why they are willing to be arrested or punished for exercising their Constitutional and democratic rights.

The world has changed. Malaysians have changed, but their government seems to be stuck in the old ways of doing things.

Instead of constructive engagement, the government has resorted to the old high-handed ways of suppression, of using water cannons to clear the way for the leaders to steamroll their way of doing things over Malaysians and to stuff their decisions down the throats of Malaysians.

But Bersih 2.0 has shown that Malaysians are able to spit out what the government has tried to stuff down their throats and opt for something more palatable.

If Najib continues to live in denial, I fear he may be making the same mistake that the Badawi administration made. The former Prime Minister did not engage with or tried to solve the issues concerning the Malaysian Indians after the Hindraf protests and did not bother to change things after the first Bersih rally and did badly in the general election of March 2008.

Will history repeat itself? Will Najib lead Barisan Nasional to worse results in the next general election?

There is still time for Najib to change things, but he must first acknowledge that there are many Malaysians (not just 6,000) who are unhappy with the Barisan government and its policies (and not just the way elections are held) and he must then take the bull by its horns and find amicable solutions to the various issues.

Otherwise, the increasing cynicism and discontent - and rising boldness - of Malaysians of all races will surely affect the results of the next general election.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bersih 2.0: Some drama expected

Looks like there will be some drama after all.

I was perhaps too hasty to write off the entire Bersih 2.0 as a non-starter and declared a victory for the Barisan government.

In the continuing battle of wits, the Pakatan Rakyat leaders - who are backing the Bersih 2.0 rally - are trying to turn a perceived loss into some kind of victory.

Since tomorrow's rally will not be held on the streets of Kuala Lumpur and will instead be held in a stadium (assuming that the Bersih organisers can find one that will allow them to stage it there), the Pakatan Rakyat leaders - who have conveniently hitched a ride on an event organised by a civil society movement - intend to turn the stadium rally into some kind of street rally.

How? By sending as many supporters as possible to the venue (wherever it is). Let's say the stadium can accommodate 30,000 people and 100,000 people turn up for the Bersih rally, the crowd will spill out to the streets nearby.

Not all of the Bersih supporters will be able to drive to the stadium (assuming the police have not cordoned off the area), so they will have to park elsewhere or board the LRT or taxis to get to the venue. Then they will have to alight some distance from the venue because of the crowd and the roads being closed by the cops.

Thus the thousands of Bersih supporters will have to gather on the streets and walk to the stadium. In that fashion the Bersih rally will proceed.

I feel the Najib administration has slipped from its moral high ground somewhat by its handling of the Bersih rally. Initially I thought Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib had pulled off a master stroke by appearing to be magnanimous by allowing the Bersih organisers to hold the rally in a stadium, but the stonewalling tactics employed by his underlings and the abhorrent rough-and-tough stance of the police have led many to doubt the government's sincerity to allow Malaysians to exercise their democratic right to express themselves.

It may not be an accurate or complete survey, but most of the people I have spoken to disagreed with the Government's high-handed handling of the Bersih issue.

I fear the Barisan Nasional Government may have misjudged the sentiments of the people and may have played into the hands of Pakatan Rakyat.

Looks like "Bersih" will be the slogan that the Opposition will use in the next general election.

The buzz is that the Youth wing of Umno will be gathering in Bukit Bintang while Bersih supporters will be turning up at Stadium Merdeka. And the Perkasa folks? They will be "strolling around" in the Titiwangsa area.

The authorities have banned 91 people including leaders of Bersih and Pakatan Rakyat from entering the city centre and the police will be setting up road blocks all over and locking down the city centre for 22 hours from midnight tonight. The major bus stations - Puduraya, Putra and Pekeliling - will also be closed.

Some Pakatan leaders have declared that they will be in the city. How are they going to get past the police checkpoints? Nobody knows and they are not telling.

And the TV cameramen, photographers and videographers of various news agencies are busy planning their coverage of the event.

Looks like there will be a 'CNN moment' after all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bersih 2.0 - who's the real loser?

Most activists have viewed the latest developments concerning the Bersih rally in a positive light, claiming that the Barisan Government had backed down by allowing the rally to be held in a stadium instead of on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

On Sunday, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin had issued a statement that street demonstrations bring more bad than good to the country although the original intention is good. "Instead, we should focus on our main objective to develop this country, and not create problems that will cause the country to lag behind," the King said.

At the same time, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Bersih could hold its rally in a stadium - and the Bersih rally organisers later accepted the offer after a meeting with the King.

Najib had said: “Go on assemble in the stadium and yell until you're hoarse. Do it. It's okay, it's not a problem."

While many activists claim the Government had backed down and made itself look ridiculous by 'recognising' and 'legitimising' Bersih so soon after having banned it by offering it the chance to hold a rally in a stadium, I view it differently.

I shall take a contrarian view on the matter. 

The victor, in fact, is the Barisan Nasional government and it is Bersih who was forced to back down. And the Pakatan Rakyat leaders, who had previously loudly expressed their all-out support for the rally, seem to have suddenly lost their voices.

Bersih was, from my point of view, out-manoeuvred by Barisan.

The King made a statement advising against holding the rally which put Bersih in a spot - if Bersih had gone on to hold the rally on the streets on July 9, it would have been seen as an insult to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and this matters a lot to the Malays. PKR and PAS would then find it hard to explain why they insulted the King to their Malay supporters.

Then Najib offered an alternative venue - a stadium. Activists have interpreted this as a sign of the government backing down.

But I interpret it as a master stroke by Najib. Read his statement again - “Go on assemble in the stadium and yell until you're hoarse. Do it. It's okay, it's not a problem."

He's telling the activists to "yell until you're's not a problem". In other words, activists can shout and scream till they are hoarse (or until the cows come home) and it's not a problem (because it is not effective at all).

By holding the rally in a stadium, the 'CNN effect' is gone. Photographers, videographers and TV cameramen from local and foreign news agencies had already been planning where to be stationed along the streets of Kuala Lumpur for the best angles.

TV audiences love footages of street battles, of tear gas canisters being fired and protesters picking up the smoking canisters and throwing them back at the riot police. People love the blood and gore. They love the scenes of riot police charging at protestors with their shields and batons. They love the scenes of riot police kicking protesters lying on the streets. If there are women and children injured, the shock value is even higher.

Water cannons being fired, protesters fighting for clean and free elections, the roads of the capital city all jammed up, hundreds of thousands of people dressed in yellow fighting for democracy and freedom - all these make for good TV coverage.

People shouting till they are hoarse in a stadium? Well, the regional TV stations may air a few seconds of it. TV stations in countries further away from Malaysia would not even bother to air such footages. After all, where's the drama?

And that indeed encapsulates the entire Bersih 2.0 rally issue - where's the drama?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spotlight on Bersih 2.0

All attention is now focused on the Bersih 2.0 rally which is supposed to take place in Kuala Lumpur on July 9.

It is purportedly to drive home the point that elections must be clean, free and fair - at least that's what the organisers say - while the Barisan Nasional government has countered that it is a move (Umno-linked Utusan Malaysia claimed it is funded by foreign Christians) backed by Pakatan Rakyat to somehow or other revive communism in Malaysia and create chaos and overthrow the government.

The Barisan Nasional government has also resorted to strong-arm tactics issuing warnings of stern action if the rally goes on as planned and arrests of several people linked to Parti Socialis Malaysia and those who were promoting the rally have already taken place in Penang and Johore.

The Malaysian Insider reported that police said they are probing an alleged attempt by some Bersih activists to revive communism and are investigating 30 PSM members, including Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jayakumar for “waging war against the Yang DiPertuan Agong”.

At the same time, the so-called Malay supremacist body called Perkasa and Umno Youth have planned counter rallies on the very same day. And the Bersih organisers are unlikely to call the rally off despite the warnings of stern action to be taken and the non-issuance of permits by the police.

Essentially there are two points of view.

From the Government's perspective, the Bersih rally should not take place because it can cause chaos, it is backed by the Opposition, involves some alleged Communists and its aim is to seize power.

Nobody is really sure how Communists have resurfaced in Malaysia after the Malayan Communist Party had signed a peace deal in Hatyai on Dec 2, 1989.

Other than the fact that some of those picked up had T-shirts featuring the faces of Malayan Communist leaders Rashid Maidin and Chin Peng, there is no other indication of how Communism is being revived. Communism, by the way, is now out of fashion in almost every part of the world except in China (which is more capitalist these days), North Korea and Cuba. Even Russia has more or less abandoned Marxist ideals.

From Bersih's point of view, the rally should be held because citizens of any democratic state have the Constitutional right to express their views, and the ideals of a free, fair and clean election are noble indeed.

What is far more important is what the people think.

Would Malaysians agree with the strong-arm tactics of the Government and its rather archaic accusations like Communists emerging from wherever they were hiding all these years to create chaos and Utusan Malaysia’s allegations of foreign Christians funding a Malaysian rally?

Or would they agree that elections should be fair and transparent and it is their democratic right to express themselves?

The Barisan Nasional leaders should realise that their strong-arm tactics can backfire - they should take a good look at what's happening in the so-called Arab Spring of dissent that has swept the Middle-East. Did strong-arm tactics work there?

In several Arab nations, the authorities did not just arrest protesters but they mobilised the military and actually shot dead many of the protesters. Yet the protests did not fade away. The strong-arm tactics merely served to encourage more people to take to the streets to protest.

If the same thing happens in Malaysia, then the strong-arm tactics of the Barisan Nasional government may backfire badly and the situation could be exploited further by Pakatan Rakyat.

Indeed, the Barisan Nasional government may unwittingly create martyrs for Pakatan Rakyat to exploit.

The Arab youths (who were not born-again Communists) were fighting for freedom and democracy (not to revive Communism) and isn't the Bersih rally supposed to be about freedom and democracy? If one can spot the similarities, then freedom and democracy may be the slogans that Pakatan Rakyat will use to fan dissent among idealistic and impressionable young Malaysians - much like the cries of "Reformasi" by de facto leader of Pakatan Anwar Ibrahim that had ignited many a protest in the past.

The Government must realise that the Pakatan Rakyat leaders are a cunning lot and they can turn a position of disadvantage to one of advantage. It appears to me that they are doing exactly that with the Bersih 2.0 rally and it seems as if the Pakatan Rakyat leaders are in fact hoping for even more stern action to be taken by the authorities as that would add more fuel to the fire - and they would quickly blame the Barisan Nasional government for lighting the match.

By the time the fire is burning merrily, everyone would have forgotten about Anwar's sodomy case and his sex video.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who's lying now?


TI-M’s President confirms no pact or pledge for Christianity as official religion or Christian Prime Minister

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) expresses grave concern concerning the recent allegations made by bloggers, Utusan Malaysia and Mohamed Razali Abdul Rahman that a
pledge or pact was made by Christian Pastors and the DAP to make Christianity the official religion of the country and to install a Christian as a Prime Minister.

Such allegations are not constructive to nation-building and have seriously affected the harmony and unity of the country.

As I was invited as TI-M’s President to speak on "Corruption in Malaysia and Instruments of Accountability" at the Unashamedly Ethical Conference (UEC) and was a guest at the privately-organised pre-conference dinner on the evening of 5th May 2011, I was an independent witness to the events.

UEC conferences are organised to promote ethical, good values and clean living especially amongst the Christian Community all over the world. Unashamedly Ethical (UE) is a movement ( that brings Christians to make a commitment to say “no” to bribery and corruption under the UE covenant campaign which Christians in many countries have adopted. Details of the commitment are as follows:

* To be entirely truthful in all I say

* To be faithful to my family relationships

* To do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but to look out for the interests of others

* To refuse to elicit, accept or pay bribes

* To be a diligent leader without being harsh and to pay my staff what is just and fair

* To do my work wholeheartedly

* To submit myself to just and ethical governing authorities

* To remember the poor by investing generously and sacrificially in the broader community

* To collaborate with my peers to impact our community and nation.

Other pledges that were presented at the conference included the Corporate Integrity pledge promoted by IIM (Institute of Integrity Malaysia), PEMANDU and TI-M. The pact that was discussed was the Integrity Pact, an anti-corruption tool developed by TI, and supported and adopted by the Government.

As TI-M stands for truth, transparency and integrity and this issue not only has not been resolved but is still escalating, it is necessary for me, as an independent witness, to clarify whether the alleged pact or pledge was made.

I categorically confirm that no pact or pledge for Christianity as official religion or for a Christian Prime Minister was made on the evening of 5th May or at any time during the conference. I have not been asked to give my statement to the Police doing the probe, but will gladly do so upon request.

Issued by:

Datuk Paul Low
Transparency International Malaysia

Contact No.: +6017 876 2550

Clinging on to the Malay vote?

Today, Utusan Malaysia was slapped with a warning letter from the Home Ministry for publishing an unsubstantiated front-page article alleging a Christian-DAP plot to usurp Islam as the religion of the federation, The Malaysian Insider reported.

On Saturday, Utusan Malaysia carried a front-page article headlined “Kristian agama rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?), claiming the DAP was conspiring with Christian leaders to take over Putrajaya and abolish Islam as the religion of the federation.

The report, based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, charged DAP with sedition for allegedly trying to change the country’s laws to allow a Christian prime minister, The Malaysian Insider reported.

It is shameful that a leading national Malay newspaper like Utusan Malaysia published a false and fictional report which is inflammatory and alarmist.

The problem is that many of its Malay readers would believe the report without even bothering to question whether it is possible for DAP and the poor Christians to carry out such a 'coup'.

The fact is that the status of Islam in the federation is defined in the Constitution. The fact is it requires a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament - Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara - to change the Constitution. On top of that, it also requires the consent of the Conference of Rulers to change the status of Islam.

Will the readers of Utusan Malaysia bother to ask if it is possible for DAP (note that the report said 'DAP' and not 'Pakatan Rakyat') to win two-thirds of the Parliamentary seats? Even if DAP wins all the seats (the so-called 'urban Chinese constituencies') it contests in, the number will definitely not amount to two-thirds.

It is definitely Mission Impossible for DAP to win two-thirds of the Parliamentary seats and usurp Islam as the religion of the federation of Malaysia.

As for the poor Christians who have been cast as the bogeyman in this episode, can they ever make Christianity the religion of the federation?

Will the readers of Utusan Malaysia bother to note that only about 10 per cent of Malaysians are Christians while Muslims make up 60 per cent of the population? How can a minority religious group - that has already been trampled on in so many ways - ever have sufficient clout to change the Constitution?

Can 10 per cent of the voters ensure that DAP will win two-thirds of the Parliamentary seats? Bear in mind that the majority of the Parliamentary seats are Malay-dominated constituencies.

Thus if an Utusan Malaysia reader were to delve deeper into the issue, he/she would realise that the inflammatory and alarmist report was based on an impossibility.

If that is the case, why did Utusan Malaysia publish the report? Could it be possible that there is a hidden agenda, that it could be part of an elaborate and risky plan by certain strategists of a certain political party to cling on to the Malay vote?

Ibrahim Ali is indeed a clown

Looks like the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has answered the question I posed in an earlier post "Hero or court jester?" (read

From 25/5/11

KUALA LUMPUR: Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali is a “clown” and his statements should not be taken seriously, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

Nazri said the independent MP could be arrested and charged if his statements caused a riot in the country.

“To me, he is a clown. I do not think people should take seriously what he said. It has been 10 days since his statement and there are no riots. It shows society has matured,” he said yesterday at a press conference on the Public Service Depart­ment (PSD) scholarships.

He noted that remarks uttered by Ibrahim Ali were no longer regarded as sensitive.

“If society feels that something uttered is no longer seditious, who are we to say it is?” he said when asked to comment on Ibrahim’s recent remarks on starting a crusade against Christians.

Petronas and petrol prices

I received this e-mail (see below) today and it is purportedly about how consumers can force Petronas to lower the price of petrol by boycotting it.

Want petrol prices to come down?

We need to take some intelligent, united action. The oil companies just laughed at last year’s action because they knew we would not continue to 'hurt' ourselves by refusing to buy petrol. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us!

By now, you're probably thinking petrol priced at about $1.50 is cheap. It is currently $2.15 for regular unleaded.

Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a liter of gas is CHEAP at $1.50, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace...not sellers.

With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.

The only way we are going to see the price of petrol come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their petrol! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying petrol.

But we CAN have an impact on petrol prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY petrol from PETRONAS
the biggest price-up driver company.

If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Petrol buyers. It's SO simple! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions and even BILLIONS of people!!

I am sending this note to 20 people. If each of you sends it on to at least twenty more that's (20 x 20 = 400) ...... And those 400 send it to at least twenty more (400 x 20 = 8000 .... and so on, by the time the message reaches the fifth group of people, we will have reached over SIXTY FOUR MILLION consumers!!!!!
20x20 = 400 400x20 = 8,000 8,000x20 = 160,000 160,000x20 = 3,200,000 3,200,000x20 = 64,000,000 64,000,000x20 = 12,800,000,000 That's 12.80 Billion people folks, who will have been contacted!!!!!

Unbelievable?? Do the math and see for yourself! Again, all you have to do is send this to 20 people. That's all!
I'll bet you didn't think we had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference..

If this message makes sense to you, then please pass it on. THEY will LOWER THEIR PRICES TO BELOW THE $1.50 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.

It’s simple – send the message along to others and choose to not buy petrol from Petronas. LET'S DO IT ! ! ! More power to you friend.

It all sounds attractive since consumers are empowered to change things for the better - in this case by forcing Petronas to lower the pump price of petrol.

But if you were to examine it logically and intelligently, it is flawed.

The author claims that if consumers were to stop buying petrol from Petronas it would be forced to lower its price.

However, consumers would still be pumping RON 95 petrol at the other petrol stations run by Shell, BHP or Esso/Mobil at the subsidised price.

Even if all Petronas stations sell zero litre of RON 95 petrol due to the purported boycott, Petronas would not suffer any loss because the station owners would have paid for the tanker-loads of oil. The station owners would be the ones who would bear the losses.

Even if Petronas stations sell zero litre of petrol, the excess capacity at Petronas tanks would easily be distributed to Shell, BHP or Esso/Mobil.

Bear in mind that even if the purported boycott takes place, there is no decrease in total demand because every motorist will still be pumping petrol - only not at Petronas stations. 

Shell, BHP and Esso/Mobil stations would enjoy higher turnover, but the total demand would remain the same.

" the time the message reaches the fifth group of people, we will have reached over SIXTY FOUR MILLION consumers!!!!!"

The author should get his/her facts right. Malaysia has perhaps 27.4 million people. Why is it necessary to reach 64 million consumers to boycott Petronas?

"That's 12.80 Billion people folks, who will have been contacted!!!!!"

The world's population is perhaps 6.92 billion. How does one contact the non-existent 5.88 billion folks?

Coming back to the price of petrol in Malaysia. The pump price of RON 95 petrol in Malaysia is subsidised by the Government and it is fixed according to a pricing mechanism which is based on the world prices of petroleum and the exchange rate of the US dollar.

The world prices of petroleum and the exchange rate of the US dollar are beyond the control of the Malaysian Government - or the government of any other country for that matter.

If the world price of Brent Crude Oil shoots up to US$150, is it the fault of the Malaysian Government? If the pump price of RON 95 at Malaysia petrol stations has to be raised because the world crude oil price shot up, is it the fault of the Malaysian Government?

If the author of the e-mail were to dig deeper, he/she would find out the world prices of crude oil are determined by the markets based on supply and demand factors - and speculation. Perhaps speculators influence the price fluctuations more these days.

And who are the speculators? They are the usual culprits - the fund managers of Goldman Sachs and other investment banks, the hedge funds, commodity funds and billionaire investors.

They are the ones who make billions of bucks for their rich investors (and the fund managers still get millions of dollars in bonuses).

And who are the losers? The billions (definitely not 12.8 billion) of consumers/motorists around the world and it's not the fault of the governments of the countries they live in.

Crude oil producers also make plenty of money when crude oil prices shoot up in world markets. These are mostly in the Middle-East.

However, Malaysia is still a net exporter of crude oil and Petronas will make lots of money when world prices of crude are high. And the profits end up in the Government's coffers.

So boycotting Petronas petrol stations will not force the pump price of RON95 to come down and it will also not affect Petronas financially.

The entire argument posited in the e-mail is flawed. 

If this message makes sense to you, then please pass it on.

This message actually makes no sense. People who have received it should just delete it.