|Rahmah Ghazali June 8, 2008|
|PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim today said that the Sept 16 deadline for a high number of BN MPs to defect to Pakatan Rakyat remained on target.
A defection of 30 BN members of Parliament would allow the Pakatan coalition to take over the federal government.
He however refused to divulge any details on the number of BN MPs involved or any other details regarding that “for the sake of their security”.
“We have to appreciate the fact that we have to do it cautiously and knowing the fact that the system is quite repressive in this country,” he added.
The climate of fear which is operating in the country, according to Anwar, has put an obstacle on giving out a clear timetable of the actual date of the crossovers.
“Some of them have to fly quietly to the neighbouring countries to have a discussion (with me). There are, however limitation and harassment (for the MPs),” he added, saying it would be dangerous if he were to reveal any names.
Anwar further reiterated that the announcement of the crossover would only be revealed when the Parliament is in session. The next sitting begins on June 23.
He however said the decision would have to be deliberated at length with the leaders of Pakatan.
He was speaking in a press conference after announcing the party’s new supreme council members at their new headquarters in Tropicana, Damansara.
The newly-appointed members included top union boss Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud, former Abim president Dr Mohd Noor Manuti, former deputy secretary general Low Chee Chong and Seri Andalas state representative Dr Xavier Jayakumar.
The party also received 50,000 new members today, which included former MCA exco member Felicia Lim, former deputy president of the Malay Chamber of Commerce Mohd Adam Harun and former Mentakab Umno division deputy head Mat Lazim Derani.
Karpal ‘taken out of context’
He was specifically asked to comment on a recent remark made by DAP chairperson Karpal Singh that the chances of defections were remote and that he personally was not in support of the crossovers.
Anwar said that Karpal was was “taken out of context” in media reports, adding that he (Anwar) always shared the concerns on the defecting MPs with other Pakatan leaders.
“They accept the fact and would consider applications of anyone who subscribes to the agenda of Pakatan,” said Anwar.
“If people endorse (our) agenda and policies, Karpal does not have problems with the (crossover),” he said.
Ready to contest
Anwar’s five-year ban from electoral politics expired on April 14 this year, freeing him to contest in a by-election or hold high party posts.
He said that he had not contested in a by-election yet as he was still consulting other party leaders and a number of MPs who had willingly agreed to stand down to allow him to contest.
The former deputy prime minister also said that he had received a letter from registrar of societies, granting him the necessary green light to become active in politics again.
“I’ve received the letter from the registrar (of societies). My lawyers have advised that we do not need an approval letter from the AG. The letter from the ROS is sufficient,” he added.
Anwar also reiterated Pakatan’s stand to bring down fuel prices when they come to power, giving fresh assurance today that he would rather lose his job than allowing people to suffer.
“If that (lower fuel price) doesn’t happen, I will resign immediately,” he said. Anwar is Pakatan’s prime ministerial choice when the coalition comes to power.
Last week the government announced a drastic 78 sen fuel hike, causing general anger among the people.
Go slow on spending
Anwar also hoped that the Pakatan Rakyat-controlled states will embark on an austerity drive and help reduce the people’s burden from the fuel price increase.
He said the state governments concerned should coordinate their activities to reduce their administrative costs so that the allocations for development and the people’s benefit would not be affected.
“We should cut down on whatever costs, like allowances and other perks to show that we are sensitive to the people’s suffering,” he said.
The five Pakatan-ruled states are Selangor, Perak, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan.
Anwar said he would leave to the wisdom of the leaders in the respective states to decide on measures to reduce the administrative costs, except on matters which involved party policies, which had to be referred to the leadership of the parties concerned.
|Yes, let us get angry, but about the right things|
|Posted by Super Admin|
|Thursday, June 5, 2008|
Petronas is too important to the nation. Petronas is the backbone of the Malaysian economy. Without Petronas this country would be dead. Should something that important be under the control of just one man where even Parliament has no say over it?
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
We should not worry so much about the petrol price increase. Even if Pakatan Rakyat had formed the federal government and even if Anwar Ibrahim had become the prime minister we would have still suffered this price increase. So is it fair to target Abdullah Ahmad Badawi singly for this petrol price increase?
The blame for the increase in the price of petrol should not be placed on the shoulders of one man and it should be seen within a bigger picture rather than in isolation. Could Abdullah Ahmad Badawi have done anything about it even if he wanted to? Or is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a victim of circumstances, who anyone who was heading the government today would also have to endure?
It is very easy to blame someone else for our problems. Who, after all, would want to admit that he or she is the problem? And the most unpopular move a government can make is a move that affects your pocket.
Do anything. Kill detainees in the police lockup. Detain political opponents and dissidents without trial on the lame excuse that they are threats to national security. Spend billions of the nation’s money on white elephants and monumental projects. Siphon out billions of Ringgit in ‘commissions’ from government projects and stash the money in numbered Swiss bank accounts. Kill of all the Rainforests. Mess up the environment. In short, do whatever you want. Just don’t put any strain on my pocket. The instant you touch my pocket, then, and only then, will I rise up in anger. That is the mentality of the Malaysian Rakyat.
We should not get upset with the increase in the price of petrol. What we should get upset about is the fact that over 34 years since 1974, Malaysia has earned an estimated RM2 trillion in oil revenue. I say ‘estimated’ because that is the only basis we can use in figuring out what the actual amount is. Petronas’ accounts are not published and are not tabled before Parliament. According to the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Petronas need not make its accounts public. Petronas need not even report to anyone, not even to Parliament. Petronas reports to just one man, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Petronas is too important to the nation. Petronas is the backbone of the Malaysian economy. Without Petronas this country would be dead. Should something that important be under the control of just one man where even Parliament has no say over it? That is what we should be angry about. We should not be angry that the price of petrol has increased. It is not Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s fault.
Okay, if we want to still be angry with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then let us be angry about the fact that just before the 8 March 2008 general election the government promised the voters that the price of petrol would not be increased. Then, even before 100 days after the general election, they go and increase it. They lied to us. They led us to believe that if we voted for them the price of petrol would not be increased. Then, after 50% or so of Malaysians voted for them, they go and increase the price of petrol. If they had been honest and had said that as soon as the general election is over they will increase the price of petrol, then 50% of Malaysians would not have voted for them. If they had been honest and had said that as soon as the general election is over they will increase the price of petrol, then more than five states would have fallen to Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional would no longer be the federal government.
Yes, that we can be angry about, if we want to be angry about something. Be angry that they lied to us. Be angry that they got 50% of Malaysians to vote for them under false pretences. But we should not be angry with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for increasing the price of petrol when he really had no choice in the matter.
I am not angry about the increase in the price of petrol when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could not avoid increasing it. I am angry that he was forced to increase it. Why was he forced to increase it? And what happened to the estimated RM2 trillion that Petronas has earned over 34 years since 1974? And why are the accounts not made public or tabled before Parliament? Was not Petronas set up through an Act of Parliament via the Petroleum Development Act 1974? Therefore, should not Parliament have the power and authority to demand that Petronas table its accounts before Parliament? Why are the accounts secret? And why should Petronas report to only one man?
Petronas should be turned into a pubic listed company. Petronas should be called Petroleum Malaysia Berhad or Petromas Bhd or PMB and it should be listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange and its accounts should be made public like all other public companies. Then PMB must hold annual general meetings and all shareholders who hold even just one share should be allowed to attend these AGMs and be allowed to ask questions. And the Directors of PMB should be both nominees of the majority shareholders (meaning the government) plus representatives of the minority shareholders (meaning you and me who hold just one share or one lot of shares). And the Directors of PMB (in particular those representing the minority shareholders) should be appointed at the AGMs. And if the shareholders are not happy with the Directors, then the shareholders can remove them via an EGM if the minimum requirements for an EGM are met.
That is what should be done, but is not done, and that is what we should be angry about. We should not be angry about the increase in the price of petrol when the increase is unavoidable and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has really no other alternative. And we should also be angry about the fact that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had no alternative but to increase the price of petrol. And we must not forget to also be angry about the matter of the estimated RM2 trillion that Petronas has earned over 34 years since 1974. And we must certainly be angry about the fact that we do not really know how much money Petronas has earned over 34 years since 1974 or what happened to the money. And we must remember to be angry about the fact that Petronas need not table its accounts or report to Parliament and about the fact that only one man, the Prime Minister, knows what is going on in Petronas and how much it has really earned and where all that money has gone to.
Oh, and since we are in the mood of getting angry, let us also get angry about the estimated RM30 billion that Terengganu has earned, which we do not know where the money has gone, and about the estimated RM30 billion that Sabah and Sarawak have also earned, which we also do not know where the money has gone. And let us also get angry about the estimated RM1 trillion that Petronas paid the government by way of corporate tax, which we also do not know where the money has gone. Furthermore, let us also get angry about the estimated RM900 billion or so that Petronas did not pay Terengganu, Sabah, Sarawak, or the federal government by way of corporate tax, which we also do not know where the money has gone.
Yes, let us get angry about all that. But let us not get angry about the increase in the price of petrol because this is just the end result of all the other things we should really be angry about but somehow are not. And let us not blame Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for increasing the price of petrol. It is not Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s fault. He has no alternative but to increase the price of petrol. Instead, we should be angry with ourselves. We kept quiet over 34 years since 1974. We did not care what they did with Petronas over 34 years since 1974. We did not bother to ask what they are doing with the estimated RM2 trillion of Petronas’ money. We did not demand that the public or Parliament get to peep into Petronas’ accounts. We just continued voting for Barisan Nasional over 34 years since 1974 without a care in the world. We should be angry with ourselves for the increase in the price of petrol, not with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Posted by Din Merican (June 6, 2008 )
Joke, Jokers and Joking!
by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
Ahmad Mustapha Hassan Writes On The Lingam Tape and Says That You Can Joke With Some People Some Of The Time But You Cannot Joke With All The People All The Time.
Everything is a joke according to some Malaysians. They go through no entry signs and say that the sign is a joke. You ask how the Police Force is performing and the answer will be that the Police are a joke. And if you confront a ‘mat rempit’ and ask why he put up such a stupid act that endangers not only himself but also other innocent people Answer will again be that it is all a joke. ‘Saja Seronok’, meaning it is all done just for fun.
This culture only emerged a couple of decades back. Previously, it would be a sin and a crime to treat things as jokes. This was so when I was a child. Nobody dared to treat anything as a joke. Things were serious and proper.
I believe it is the frustration in facing the current malaise in the Badawi administration that resulted in the birth of this negative culture. The Government does not take things seriously and the Prime Minister is a big joke himself and so his Islam Hadhari.
The administration is more concerned with creating their own bunch of cronies and flatterers. The leadership enjoys having jokers around.
The leadership feels this can be an anecdote to their inability to forge a united Malaysian nation and also to cure all the social ills facing the nation. By creating divisions, they feel their presence will forever be needed. The jokers can provide entertainment to a frustrated the nation.
Another aspect is the lack of creativity in the leadership. And thus the leadership becomes too engaged in this pastime to compensate for their intellectual deficiency. Everyone is trying to entertain everyone else. Even our honorific awards are becoming one big national joke (watch June 7, 2008 national award ceremony on television).
We take the ‘UMNO’ general assembly as a case in point. Due to lack of positive brain power, the ‘kris’ was used as a symbol of manhood and courage. After this show of socalled belligerence, the stand up comic, Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn would then take over the proceedings of the assembly.E ach speaker would try to outdo the other in coming out with hilarious and so-called witty comments and flattering pantuns.The leadership was entertained and so were the other participants. Serious talkers would be out of place in such a gathering.
This assembly has become an annual comical affair. Poking fun has become a kind of national pastime. Everybody had a good laugh; everybody gave loud clapping and everybody roared with heartiest laughter while they spend their lunch time and evening doing big deals with hardpressed businessmen.
Once this culture emerged, it then took strong root especially with the UMNO Malays. And they did sometimes forget where they were. So they also tried to play jokes in Parliament. The leaking of the Parliament roof was equated with some crude remarks. Again the joking trait seemed to have no boundaries.
Parliament too had become a theatre for vulgar and dirty jokes. Recall the “bucor” remarks by that despicable Barisan Nasional Parliamentarian from Kinabatangan, Sabah. And the jokers were UMNO Malays and fortunately enough not from the opposition political parties. This culture was, however, peculiar to UMNO politicians as it was seldom found among the non-Malays. That is most telling.
The latter are more serious in the performance of their duties. They may be construed as being colourless. One should know where and when to be serious, not joke all the time. Things should not be lumped together all over the place and all the time. There is a time and a place for everything.
Jokes would be much appreciated in pubs and drinking bars. At these places politics and religion were taboo. These are places for relaxation and light conversation. These are places to let one’s hair down. And so jokes will be much appreciated. The jokers in Parliament should dispense their witty remarks at these watering holes.
Not being serious and joking most of the time only showed that some people were suffering from some kind inferiority complex. Not being able to come to par socially and economically even with affirmative action being lavishly accorded to them ,these UMNO politicians would try to overcome the sense of guilt by creating jokes; and these jokes were usually at the expense of those who have achieved economic success on their own steam.
So when the Government set up a Royal Commission to look into the Lingam tape episode, many took this Commission to be a joke. The main actor in the tape even told the Commission that the character in the tape “looks like him and sounds like him” instead of either confirming or denying that it was him. This is some kind of a sick joke.
Once this tempo was set by the main actor, others too followed. They simply treated the Commission as a joke. Vincent Tan, the tycoon in the corridors of power, also played to the tune of the principal actor. He thought he was being very clever in taking such a posture. Tunku/Teuku Adnan Mansor too played his role in concert with Vincent Tan and Lingam. When it came to the turn of Dr. Mahathir, he conveniently chose what to remember and what not to remember. I have this feeling, that all felt that they were taking part in some kind of comedy.
But now, the last laugh is with the Commission. The Commission members did not treat the whole thing as a joke. This was a serious affair. The credibility of the judiciary was at stake. They did what they had been entrusted to do. They came out with a report that caused the various actors in this episode to lose their appetite for jokes.
Malaysians must not treat every single thing as a joke in order to cover up their weakness or embarrassment. They should not feel that they were above the law and that they could treat all and sundry with laughable contempt.
This high and mighty attitude was due to their being close to the seat of power. But the occupant of that seat had already vacated the place in 2003, and he himself was also implicated in this incident. Vincent Tan was all smiles in appearing at the hearing of this Commission and thought himself to be very clever in acting the way he did.
‘You can joke with some people some time but you cannot joke with all the people all the time.’ Wealth and position did not merit the kind of attitude that should be shown to a Royal Commission set up to determine the authenticity of the Lingam tape.
Each and every one that was connected with the tape was duty bound to tell the truth to assist the Commission in coming to a truthful conclusion. That it did come out with its much awaited report was very commendable, especially in an a environment that was treating the whole exercise as a matter to be taken lightly.
Now the Commissioners knew that the whole affair was no laughing matter. But in Malaysia, there always emerges some wise character who would throw a damper on what the Commission wants done. The Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Razak opined that investigation may not mean prosecution!!
But there are agencies of the government that will look into the findings of the Commission, and why not just allow them to do the needful. The ball is in Badawi’s court, not in the hands of Gani Patail, the Attorney-General to commence investigation on the former Prime Minister, Vincent Tan, V K Lingam and the two former Lord Presidents, Eusoff Chin and Ahmad Fairuz.
BANGKOK — With no end in sight to high world oil prices, India and Malaysia on Wednesday became the latest Asian countries to risk the wrath of voters by raising the price of subsidized fuel, a highly unpopular measure that could further weaken the governments of both countries made fragile by recent electoral setbacks.
The moves follow similar price increases in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and are a recognition by governments that they can no longer shelter their populations from the spike in energy prices.
In India the increase was quickly condemned by political parties from all sides: the Communist Party promised a week of demonstrations, including blockades of roads and trains, that were due to start Wednesday, while the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party said its members would also take to the streets. Raising fuel prices was the equivalent of “economic terrorism,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a B.J.P. spokesman, who added that the move would drive the “last nail in the coffin for the common man.”
Among economists and policy makers, the decision was described as painful but necessary. Fuel subsidies in Malaysia alone would have amounted to $17 billion this year, four times more than the combined amount the government pays for national defense, education and health care.
Malaysia is raising gasoline prices by 40 percent and plans on further increases in the future, according to Shahrir Abdul Samad, the domestic trade and consumer affairs minister.
Gasoline prices vary across India, but the announcement Wednesday amounted to an increase of around 10 percent for gasoline and diesel.
Consumers will pay about 50 rupees a liter for gasoline, or about $4.45 a gallon, well above the average $3.79 a gallon average that drivers in the United States are paying, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Energy.
The fuel price increase is expected to drive inflation up in India from 8.1 percent to as high as 10 percent, when knock-on effects are felt in manufacturing and other industries.
Chandra Prakash, a gas-pump repairman in Delhi, said that because of the price increases, he might be forced to abandon his scooter altogether and start walking from job to job. Already, he said, he is barely surviving. “It is difficult to cut back expenses any more,” he said, adding that it was the government’s job to “keep prices in check.”
The Indian minister of petroleum, Murli Deora, said Tuesday that the price increases were an “absolute necessity” due to the increase in world oil prices. But the price increase could further weaken the Congress Party government, which has been losing ground in state elections in recent months. Most recently, the state of Karnataka voted for the B.J.P. in May.
In Malaysia, the governing coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was weakened after losing in 5 of the country’s 13 states in March elections, and Abdullah has been pressured by some senior members of his party to step down. Yet if he can hold his coalition together, cutting subsidies may benefit Abdullah and his allies in the long run.
“They will have a lot more cash to play with,” said Ibrahim Suffian, director of the Merdeka Center, an independent polling agency. The government will able to use the savings for social programs and infrastructure, moves that would please both voters and members of the governing party, the United Malays National Organization, which has been able to remain united in the past by doling out contracts.
To cushion the blow for consumers, the Malaysian government plans to offer a yearly cash rebate to owners of small cars and motorcycles. Cars with engines smaller than two liters will receive an annual payout of $200. Motorcycle owners will be given about one-fifth that amount, according to the Malaysian news Web site, Malaysiakini.
Anwar Ibrahim, the head of the largest opposition party and a former finance minister, said he feared that the billions of dollars the government will save by cutting subsidies would be wasted.
In the past, he said, Malaysia’s oil revenues were “disbursed for megaprojects and projects that benefit the rich and the cronies.”
“People can be persuaded to accept the gradual reduction of subsidies,” he said by telephone from his home in Kuala Lumpur. “But not when the funds are not disbursed in a transparent manner.”
Gas costs about $2.20 a gallon in Malaysia, among the cheapest prices in Asia. The government in recent days has sought to clamp down on drivers from neighboring Thailand and Singapore from crossing the border to fill their tanks. Late Wednesday, after the measure was announced, long lines could be seen forming at gas stations around Kuala Lumpur as drivers tried to beat the midnight deadline for the new prices.
Removing subsidies is likely to hit some Malaysians hard because the price of transport, food and electricity are all expected to rise. Malaysia relies heavily on subsidized natural gas to generate electricity.
Prime Minister Abdullah said the price increases would propel the country’s inflation rate to as high as 5 percent this year, from just 2 percent last year.
The national oil company, Petronas, has subsidized the natural gas at a cumulative loss since 1997 of more than $19 billion. Much of the gas was from Malaysian offshore wells, but some was bought from Vietnam and Indonesia at market prices and then sold locally for one-quarter of that price, according to Hassan Marican, president and chief executive of Petronas.
Malaysia has been a net exporter of oil in recent decades and more than one- third of the government’s budget is derived from oil revenues but the country’s demand for energy will outstrip its supply as soon as two years from now, according to Petronas calculations.
The removal of subsidies may reduce Malaysia’s demand for energy and thus extend its reserves. Globally, the scaling back of subsidies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and a handful of other developing countries is too small to have a significant impact on world prices, Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, said in a report released Monday. The report did not take into account the price increase in India.
June 5, 2008
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim described the 78-sen rise in petrol pump prices as “wanton in size and callous in effect”.
He added the increase – the largest in four rounds of price hikes in the last 18 months – was the “compounded legacy of the now unsustainable secrecy in the way the profits of Petronas are disbursed and was also the cumulative effect of wanton waste in government expenditure”.
In remarks made to Malaysiakini today, Anwar said, “Those chickens are now coming home to roost to the detriment of the ordinary citizen who has been scrimping and scraping for several years now.
“The steepness of the price increase this time is simply unconscionable,” he asserted.
He described the “meager” annual cash rebates to small vehicle owners and motorcyclists as “pointless palliatives to assuage the pain of the sharp increase in the pump price.”
To offset the hefty price hikes, the government said vehicles below 2000cc will receive an annual rebate of RM625, which is to compensate for 800 litres of fuel used under the new price.
Meanwhile, owners of private motorcycles of engine capacity of up to 250cc will be paid a cash rebate of RM150 per year.
“We have been predicting this increase from before last March’s general election,” said the putative leader of the Pakatan Rakyat – the coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS that controls the legislature in five states following the recent polls.
“We felt that after the ruling coalition’s poor performance in the elections, they would moderate the size of the increase from anxiety about its effects on the rakyat who were already reeling from the impact of the earlier rounds of increases which influenced the way they voted.
“Now the dreaded increase has occurred and it is steeper than had been anticipated. This is surely the compounded legacy of a policy of furtiveness in all aspects of the country’s financial management.”
Anwar reiterated that a Pakatan government at the federal level would overhaul the financial management of the country by implementing an agenda of “humane economics”.
“Our economic agenda would promote the robust growth of the Malaysian economy to achieve the twin goals of equity and poverty eradication.
“By practising transparency and accountability through combating corruption, waste and mismanagement, we will create a more equitable and dynamic society,” he said.
Petaiing Jaya, Selangor
5hb. Jun, 2008
Rakyat dibebankan dengan kenaikan keterlaluan! Rakyat pastinya dirundung kehidupan rumit. Bermula dari harga minyak, menjalar ka bil letrik, tertekan parah dengan kos pengangkutan dan harga barang keperluan lainnya.
Arakian subsidi minyak dikurangkan, tetapi persoalannya keuntungan PETRONAS yang jenuh melimpah tertiris dan bocor kemana? Tidak ada pertanggungjawaban waima kapada Parlimen sekalipun.
Yang arif mengenai kedudukan kewangan PETRONAS hanya Perdana Menteri dan yang terserlah adalah projek mega dan koridor!
Rakyat bukan sahaja dinafikan maklumat malah limpahan dan habuan dari khazanah utama negara tidak dirasakan. Kemenfaatannya adalah buat keluarga dan kroni yang sekonyong-konyong dianugerah kontrak dan projek. Inilah yang kami sering ungkapkan sebagai pengurusan ekonomi yang lembab dan tidak bertanggungjawab!
Amalan hidup pimpinan negara terus boros, pembaziran dan rasuah terus berleluasa. Justeru itu kami membantah keras dasar Kerajaan UMNO-BN yang mengabaikan tanggungjawab dan membebankan rakyat. Satelah gagal mengurus ekonomi dan menjamin keselesaan hidup rakyat, pimpinan UMNO-BN seharusnya berundur!
Saya ulangi pendirian saya dan Pakatan Rakyat untuk menurunkan harga minyak dan meletakkan asas ekonomi manusiawi. Dasar tsb harus menjurus kepada pertumbuhan segar dan pantas, namun tetap prihatin terhadap kehidupan rakyat.
|Saga at the Selangor Turf Club|
|June 4, 2008|
A letter from concerned citizens about the goings-on at the Selangor Turf Club
Congrats to Senator Obama and his campaign team and all his fans in Malaysia, Indonesia and around the world. Senator Obama is the first African-American Presidential Nominee for the Democratic Party in 200 years since the end of the slave trade. He fought a brilliant campaign to defeat the early favorite, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Change will come to America and change is also coming to Malaysia.
Like 1968, 2008 will be remembered as a year of the Black Swan (the year of momentous transformational change). Obama’s success is a reminder that in an open and upward mobile society, everything is possible. For the Senator from Illinois, he is living the American Dream. He will now face the distinguished Arizona Senator John McCain of the Republican Party in the November 2008 US Presidential Elections.
His victory speech is gracious, unifying and measured, despite the hard fought and at times trenchant primaries. To me that is politics at its best. Here is the text of his speech in St. Paul for your kind attention —Din Merican
June 3, 2008
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.
Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said — because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign — through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.
At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.
That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.
We’ve certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who’s shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning — even in the face of tough odds — is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children’s Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency — an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn’t just about the party in charge of Washington, it’s about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren’t the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn’t do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — we cannot afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say — let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.
In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.
Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.
It’s not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
It’s not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college — policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.
And it’s not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians — a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn’t making the American people any safer.
So I’ll say this — there are many words to describe John McCain’s attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush’s policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.
Change is a foreign policy that doesn’t begin and end with a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged. I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what’s not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years — especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.
We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in – but start leaving we must. It’s time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It’s time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It’s time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda’s leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century — terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That’s what change is.
Change is realizing that meeting today’s threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy — tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isn’t afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy. That’s what the American people want. That’s what change is.�
Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It’s understanding that the struggles facing working families can’t be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It’s understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President.
John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy — cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota — he’d understand the kind of change that people are looking for.
Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can’t pay the medical bills for a sister who’s ill, he’d understand that she can’t afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. She needs us to pass health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it. That’s the change we need.
Maybe if he went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can’t even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he’d understand that we can’t afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future — an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. That’s the change we need.
And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, he’d understand that we can’t afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That’s the change we need in America. That’s why I’m running for President.
The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don’t deserve is another election that’s governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon — that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.
Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I’ve walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I’ve sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. And I’ve worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.
In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
|Jun 3, 2008|
|In a tit-for-tat move, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has dared the government to set up three royal commissions to probe alleged irregularities linked to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
In his blog post today, Mahathir said the panels of inquiry should investigate Abdullah’s role in the:
• ‘Oil for Food’ scandal
• merger between ECM-Libra and Avenue Assets
• spending of wang ehsan (goodwill payment) in Terengganu
The former premier’s ire stems from the report of the ‘Lingam tape’ royal panel, which had named him as one of six prominent personalities who warrant further investigation for allegedly compromising judicial integrity.
Mahathir highlighted several words from the commission’s report and used these in turn to lace his barbs with sarcasm.
He wrote that the three panels he has proposed would not need to “ascertain anything with exactitude”.
“Mere possibilities should suffice for (them) to make their recommendations and for full publicity and pictures to be released to the Kalimullah (Hassan) controlled mainstream media,” he said.
“A full investigation by the authorities should then be carried and the innocence proven though not necessarily beyond reasonable doubt.”
At the start of the blog-post, Mahathir noted that the royal commission is not a court of law and is not supposed to judge and sentence people.
“But the fact that such commissions are often manned by judges or ex-judges seems to indicate that principles of justice and determination of right and wrong should be based on legal principles,” he wrote.
“Clearly the royal commission on the Lingam tape has allowed itself the liberty of stretching legal principles in order possibly to achieve a certain objective.”
He quoted a “telling” sentence from the report, emphasising certain words: In the process, Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also entangled. That possibility was ominous when examined against the factual circumstances surrounding the rejection of Malek Ahmad as Chief Judge of Malaya.
‘Their ultimate aim or purpose could not be ascertained with exactitude given the limitation under the (Commission) terms of reference. It could be related to the fixing of cases as submitted by counsel for the Bar and others. Certainly it is reasonable to suggest that it could not be anything but self-serving.
Mahathir said that, through this unusual reasoning “even though they could not ascertain with exactitude, the commission concluded that I could be related to the fixing of cases…I await the investigation which I suspect is possibly intended to incriminate me one way or another”.
“Indeed based on the arguments of the commission itself I can say that possibly it was set up in order to find something to pin on me, to drag me to court etc and generally humiliate me.
“Indeed, although I cannot ascertain with exactitude, it may be possible that the commission members may have been instructed to pin something on me. This is a reasonable suggestion given that for the prime minister, ‘it would be self-serving’.”
Abdullah’s role questioned
“He is also on record as abusing his position by lobbying the Iraqi authorities in favour of his sister-in-law. Ministers, deputy prime ministers and prime ministers are prohibited from doing business. Letters of recommendation for sisters-in-law clearly constitute lobbying,” commented Mahathir.
The second panel, he said, should investigate the merger between ECM-Libra - at that time partly owned by Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin “and a well-known crony” – with the government-linked company Avenue Assets.
Abdullah, who is also finance minister, “was possibly responsible for devaluing the price of Avenue Assets and giving ECM-Libra the management role”, said Mahathir.
He also questioned the substantial allocation of federal funds to Terengganu for various projects such as the Monsoon Cup and the construction of the Crystal Mosque, even though the state had some RM6 billion in unspent wang ehsan.
As such, he said, the third royal commission should look into how the 5 percent oil royalty (known as wang ehsan or goodwill payment) due to Terengganu was spent.
“It is possible that the usual procedures for fund allocation and spending were not adhered to. The possibility of corruption when contracts were given should be fully investigated. The commission can, on the basis of possibility implicate the prime minister, the menteri besar of Terengganu and Khairy in the misuse and abuse of authority.”
Mahathir said that mere denial by the prime minister, the (former) menteri besar and the contractor “should not be accepted as it is reasonable to suggest that they could not be anything but self-serving”.
“The possibility here is ominous. When the royal commissions have finished their work, new royal commissions should be set up to look into other possibilities of abuses of power by the present government and all the previous governments,” he added.
Posted by Din Merican
Source: Business Times, Singapore– June 2, 2008
By PAULINE NG, KL CORRESPONDENT
THE talk these days isn’t if, but when. With crude oil soaring to exorbitant levels of over US$120 per barrel, Malaysians who have long enjoyed the cushion of fuel subsidies – petrol still costs RM1.92 (S$0.81) a litre at the pump – are girding themselves for the inevitable.
As frightening a prospect as it appears to many Malaysians, Malaysia turning into a net importer of oil – perhaps as early as the mid 2010s – is an even more terrifying reality. Fuel subsidies (petroleum plus gas subsidies to the power and industrial sectors) amounted to over RM40 billion last year, and should balloon to over RM50 billion this year, the amount including taxes foregone by the government.
Fuel subsidies account for nearly 80 per cent of total subsidies – a totally disproportionate amount which incidentally also exceeds this year’s development expenditure of RM40 billion.
So critical has the situation become that it has reached a tipping point, which could swell the country’s budget deficit to 8-10 per cent of gross domestic product from about 3 per cent currently.
This latest warning was delivered courtesy of Danny Quah, professor of economics and head of the Department of Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) on a visit to the country last week.
Already scrambling for a mechanism which would allow it to slash fuel subsidies without impacting the poor and lower middle class too much, Malaysians know the humongous problem must be arrested before it escalates further and erodes the country’s economic prospects.
When Indonesia bravely bit the bullet in the tumult of the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s and slashed its fuel subsidies, Malaysia should have followed suit especially as it had some cushion in the form of capital controls.
As with all difficult policy decisions, postponing the inevitable hasn’t made it easier. A whopping 49 per cent year-on- year pick-up in car sales in April at a time of rocketing fuel prices is further indication of how the government will have its work cut out weaning Malaysians off cheap fuel – especially when public transport options are woefully lacking owing to its earlier misguided policy of promoting national car sales.
Over the past few years, efforts to encourage more of the 1.5 million-plus driving into Kuala Lumpur to switch to public transport has borne little fruit – only 15-16 per cent use public transport. Most Malaysians would consider public transport if service was more reliable.
Likewise, most accept that foregoing other economic opportunities in lieu of fuel subsidies is unwise. However, the government’s penchant to channel hundreds of millions, if not billions, towards ‘prestigious’ projects with little tangible benefit such as sending a person into space or building numerous underused buildings and bridges in Putrajaya, brings cold comfort. If savings are not put to more productive use, most would rather keep the subsidy.
A current proposal to establish a single Public Transport Commission to regulate public transport and to act as the sole authority handling all matters (including the issue of licences, vehicle supervision, enforcement and control) can assist the government in the sticky predicament it is in – especially if the commission is headed by the right people and armed with the necessary powers to get the job done. Currently, a mind-boggling 13 government agencies from seven ministries are involved in the sector, with the muddling consequence that little gets done.
With time running out, a decent mechanism which ensures the needy are assisted when fuel prices are raised, plus concrete evidence that savings from subsidies will indeed be channelled towards improving public transportation and other facilities and services of tangible benefit to the public, could considerably reduce some of the antagonism that is bound to arise when fuel subsidies are cut.
Posted by Din Merican (June 3, 2008 )
By Anil Netto
So the figure has been revealed. Petronas’ group profit before taxes, royalties, dividends and export duties amounted to RM570 billion for the period from its establishment in 1974 to 31 March 2007.
If you include the figure for the period until 31 March 2008, then you are probably looking at a figure closer to RM700 billion, with the higher oil prices.
Let’s see the breakdown of that RM570 billion:
Payments to the government (royalties, export duties, taxes and dividends) – RM359 billion
Allocations for shareholders, royalties and taxes abroad – RM41 billion
Profits re-invested in Petronas operations – RM170 billion
Total RM570 billion
(In case you are wondering where I got these figures from, they are from an oral response in Parliament to a question put forward to the Prime Minister by the MP for Bagan, Lim Guan Eng.)
So the government has received RM359 billion from Petronas over the years. If we include the year ended 31 March 2008, the figure would be in the RM400 billion range.
The big question is, has the government made the best use of all that money? You and I know the answer to that. If the money had been used effectively, we could have provided affordable housing for everyone in this land, invested in an excellent public transport system and come up with a first class public health care system providing universal access to all Malaysians.
But have we? Look how much has been wasted and squandered over the years. And let’s not forget all the natural gas subsidies dished out by Petronas to the Independent Power Producers (private electricity companies), which have been raking in billions in profits over the years. And don’t forget the billions spent on bailing out banks.
It is truly a lost opportunity, considering that we will soon become a net importer of oil in a few years’ time.
Why, very few Malaysians have access to Petronas’ detailed accounts. Where is the accountability and transparency in the use of these massive amounts of public funds?
Posted by Din Merican (June 3, 2008 )
“It’s Abdullah’s project. If he’s not around, no one knows what’s going to happen as different prime ministers will have different priorities”
By Kevin Lim and Jalil Hamid, REUTERS
Malaysia’s plan for a showpiece economic zone in its south is in doubt because of the uncertain fate of the country’s prime minister and a lukewarm response from big investors in nearby Singapore. On paper, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s pet project to develop the 2,200 sq kms (850 sq miles) of land in southern Johor state into a economic zone to complement the rich but land-scarce city-state of Singapore looks good. The area has so far drawn $10.5 billion in investment, much of it from the Middle East, riding on investor hopes the area will become a hinterland for the city-state the way that China’s booming Shenzhen, once a tiny fishing village, complements neighboring Hong Kong. The Iskandar Malaysia zone, three times bigger than Singapore, would be Malaysia’s largest economic zone. The government says it should create 800,000 jobs and attract $100 billion in investment over 25 years.
Its proponents say it could be Southeast Asia’s answer to China’s Pearl River Delta, a manufacturing heartland that turns out more than a quarter of China’s worldwide exports. But Malaysia’s track record in getting such grand projects off the ground is patchy and Singapore developers are looking to booming China and India instead, worried the plans will be shelved if Abdullah loses power.
“It’s Abdullah’s project. If he’s not around, no one knows what’s going to happen as different prime ministers will have different priorities,” said Suan Teck Kin, an economist at Singapore’s United Overseas Bank (UOB). Abdullah’s position weakened after the poor showing of his ruling coalition in March polls and speculation is rife he may be forced to resign.
Given this kind of political vacuum in Malaysia, I don’t think anyone will be rushing into Iskandar,” said Song Seng Wun, a Singapore-based economist at Malaysian bank CIMB. Expensive government development projects have been for years Malaysia’s answer to regional economic disparities in a country spread over the Malay peninsula and parts of the island of Borneo.
Their success has been mixed at best. UOB’s Suan cited a proposed IT zone near the capital Kuala Lumpur as an example of a project that is struggling after its sponsor and Abdullah’s predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, left office.
State investment arm Khazanah Nasional, which has opened a marketing office in Singapore to promote the Iskandar zone, brushed off political concerns and said investors are committed to Malaysia. Mainly Muslim Malaysia has been a magnet for Middle Eastern investors flush with petrodollars who have been snapping up banks, hotels and malls. Abu Dhabi investment arm Mubadala Development Co is leading a consortium to develop a multi-billion dollar city within Iskandar. Kuala Lumpur has also established itself as a leading centre in Asia for the burgeoning Islamic Finance market.
But state-linked Singapore developers have been cool to Iskandar. Many analysts say for it to really take off, it needs Singapore firms such as CapitaLand to develop on land that costs as little as 1/30th of Singapore land. “Singapore investments could be very crucial for Iskandar,” said Malaysian political analyst Khoo Kay Peng. “Malaysia needs investments in high-technology areas such as biotech, rather than just a pure real estate play,” he said.
Singapore developers are wary after they got burned by frequent and unexpected policy changes during Mahathir’s reign, said the head of investments at one Singapore firm. The two countries have a long history of strained relations dating back to 1963 when they gained independence from the British as a federation only to split up two years later. At the time Singapore feared it could not survive on its own with no natural resources and squeezed into an area half the size of Greater London. But since then the island has established itself as a major Asian business and finance centre competing with Hong Kong.
However, it lacks a readily available pool of land and labor that booming southern China offers to Hong Kong, and south Malaysia’s development plans aim to fill that void. Yet rather than counting on its neighbors, Singapore has tried to overcome the lack of space by reclaiming land from the sea and shifting factories to the neighboring Indonesian island of Batam. Local firms in their quest for profits and growth are also looking further afield to booming economies of China, Vietnam and India. For example, a group of Singapore government-backed firms led by Keppel Corp is building an “eco-city” in China, while state firm Ascendas manages business parks in five Indian cities.
And despite Malaysian lobbying, Singapore’s official response to the project did not go beyond forming a joint committee with its neighbor. The plan also has its critics in Malaysia. Mahatir, who still pulls considerable weight in local politics, recently described the blueprint as “a platform for Singapore to expand its sovereignty.” “In the end the area … will be filled with Singaporeans and populated only with 15 percent of Malays,” he said.
And Then There Were Two
With Mohamad Ezam’s departure, the remaining Reformasi ‘war horses’ – Azmin Ali and Saifuddin Nasution – have assumed greater importance.
FROM the onset of Reformasi in 1998, Anwar Ibrahim’s cause has been championed principally by his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as well as a tightly-knit group of loyal aides – most notably a trio comprising Mohamad Ezam Mohd Noor, Azmin Ali and Saifuddin Nasution – all of whom were ex-UMNO members of varying degrees of seniority and promise.
Each of them has suffered for their political choices – Ezam, for example, was detained under the ISA, and Azmin has faced countless legal charges.
Over the past decade relations among the three men, and indeed with Anwar himself, have undergone various stresses and strains.
For example, in the aftermath of the 2004 polls, Saifuddin stepped away from active involvement in PKR to take up a prized NGO position with the PAS government in Kelantan that allowed him privileged access to that party’s inner workings.
Of course the most notable ‘refusenik’ has been Ezam, whose presence alongside Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last week has provided a major boost to Umno’s flagging fortunes.
It is also a timely reminder that two can play at the “cross-over” game, and that historically the Barisan Nasional has been more adept at “winning over” such support.
Ezam’s move refocuses attention on PKR’s internal dynamics and especially the second tier of Malay leaders such as Azmin and Saifuddin. Why are they important?
While the party is avowedly multiracial, its core support base is Malay, and this “constituency” needs to be constantly maintained and managed by loyal and committed lieutenants, especially as Anwar charts his ambitious multiracial agenda.
If PKR wishes to grow its cadre of Malay leaders like Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and others in the boiler room of the party, it needs to keep its pre-existing, Reformasi era “stormtroopers” like Azmin and Saifuddin in place.
So, with Ezam’s departure, the remaining Reformasi “war horses” – Azmin and Saifuddin – have assumed greater importance, especially given Azmin’s alleged role in Ezam’s withdrawal last year.
Unsurprisingly, Anwar responded almost immediately by taking steps to secure Saifuddin’s increased commitment to the party at around the same time, culminating in a carefully stage-managed return and a standing ovation for the recently elected Machang MP during the 2007 PKR Congress in Seremban. Saifuddin was subsequently appointed the party’s Director of Strategy thereby helping to minimise the impact of Ezam’s withdrawal.
While both men are Singapore-born, no one would ever think of bracketing them together. Azmin and Saifuddin are an exercise in contrasts – the first an urban sophisticate, the second more a “kampung” firebrand. However, this divide reflects the reality of Malay political thought and expression.
Azmin is a suave, American-educated mathematician and economist with a Klang Valley sensibility. In spite of the extraordinary political turbulence he has lived through, he remains calm, analytical and supremely calculating – all aspects of his personality that have in turn made him both indispensable to Anwar and deeply loathed by those who resent his proximity to the PKR’s all-powerful advisor, though there are people who feel that his influence is more apparent than real.
Still, Azmin’s superb organisational and managerial skills have been invaluable in unlocking PKR’s capabilities across the board, especially in the run-up to the 2008 polls. Much of the party’s ingenious use of IT, software and mobile telephony is attributable to Azmin.
Having entered the working world as Anwar Ibrahim’s special officer (and later his ultimate gate-keeper) when only 23, Azmin’s subsequent ejection from the embrace of the Umno/Malay elite had clearly been a defining and deeply wounding experience.
When asked about how he views the world that he had been so ignominiously cast out of, Azmin replies coolly: “The entire system is rotten. I can forgive Dr Mahathir Mohamad but I can never forget what happened to me. We will be a better government, not a bitter one.”
It’s a phrase he repeats a few times.
“We’ve had to face intimidation and harassment all the way. We promise that when we get to Putrajaya the first step will be to reform and remove all those draconian laws,” he said.
“It’s not been easy for us. But now you can see a major shift from the Barisan to the Pakatan. The younger generation has the moral courage to act. I believe we are moving beyond race. Take our work on the New Economic Policy. At first there was resistance. But it’s been a steady process until we reached the Malaysian Economic Agenda. We’ve acknowledged the good the NEP has done in the past – especially with education – but argued that it’s no longer relevant. We need a new set of policies to protect the Malays and look after the other races. The Barisan’s biggest failure has been in not forming a Malaysian identity.”
Saifuddin, with his grass-roots earthiness and “ceramah” style, clearly lacks Azmin’s polish and elite poise. However, appearances are deceptive. Intellectually and ideologically, Saifuddin is clearly the more agile of the two men, indicative perhaps of the greater length of time he’s spent in active politics over the past decades.
Similarly, Saifuddin is all too aware of the unusual and sometimes contradictory twists and turns in his political career – student politics, Umno Youth secretary-general, Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (Apcet) demonstration, Reformasi activist, founding member of Keadilan, Lunas state assemblyman, a flirtation with PAS through his appointment to Yayasan Tok Kenali and thence back to PKR. Still he has nonetheless managed to create an underlying political rationale for his travails.
“I’ve always been motivated by socio-economic injustice and disparities. When I was at Umno Youth we saw ourselves as the catalyst for Reformasi,” he said.
“Similarly when I joined Yayasan Tok Kenali at the express invitation of Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz (Nik Mat) we focused on social welfare, training and community development programmes, working closely with Husam Musa. I was also part of the Committee that helped draft the state budget.”
He is suitably contrite over his past brutish behaviour when he disrupted Apcet in the mid 90s, long before his conversion to the civil rights agenda during Reformasi.
“It’s a black mark against me,” he conceded. “Certainly the civil society groups had a hard time accepting me until I apologised for what I did, in front of both (Timor Leste President Jose) Ramos-Horta and (Prime Minister) Xanana Gusmao.
“Now, I’d say I enjoy a good working relationship with people like (fellow PKR leaders Batu MP) Tian Chua and (Subang MP) R. Sivarasa. Our PKR internal meetings are very testing. We meet two to three times a week and it really stretches your skills and articulation.I find that this is what I cherish most. We have to confront issues, whereas with the Barisan it has been the politics of jaga hati for too long.”
As Pakatan and Barisan slug it out over the next few months, Anwar will be depending more and more on his second tier leaders to implement his over-arching, macro ideas. I have a sense that with battle hardened political operatives such as Azmin and Saifuddin to draw on he will be well placed to move forward.
Snap polls: Who would win?
Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh
June 3, 2008
Yesterday, we argued that it’s unlikely that there will be a snap election anytime soon. We believe that even if the situation were such that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wanted to have one, his request might be rejected by the king.
Still, we think it’s worthwhile discussing what would be the likely outcome if a fresh election were to be held, which would only be at the federal level. Pakatan Rakyat would naturally refuse to hold fresh elections for the five states that it controls and there is no reason for Abdullah to call for fresh elections in the states that Barisan Nasional controls.
One school of thought is that the BN would gain ground because the people who had voted against it in the recent election would swing back, the rationale being that the message they wanted to send has been sent.
The other school of thought is that even those who had voted against the BN (but never really supported the opposition) are pleasantly surprised at the way the way the Pakatan states are being run and would like to see Pakatan control the Parliament as well.
Which is right? It depends on a lot of factors, actually. As has always been the case in Malaysia, racial politics and sentiments are part and parcel of the political landscape. While the previous election has demonstrated the public’s capacity for some cross-ethnic voting, it’s still way too early to declare the end to racial politics and racial voting.
Pakatan has advantages in three areas
In a snap poll, there are still many issues that can be ‘racialised’. For example, Umno would probably stoke Malay fears that a Pakatan government would feature more non-Malays than Malays. Whether this kind of scare tactic would work or not hinges on de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s ability to assure the Malay ground that their rights would not be eroded.
Of critical importance is how Pakatan would fare in East Malaysia. If Anwar is able to get whole parties, as opposed to individuals, to cross over, Pakatan would have a better chance of winning there.
In Malaysian politics, people tend to vote for parties rather than individuals. Even in Sabah and Sarawak, where independent candidates have a better track record of winning elections compared to Peninsular Malaysia, it’s by no means certain that a crossover MP running under the Pakatan ticket can win back his seat.
Pakatan however has clear advantages in three areas. Firstly, it is willing to offer concessions that the BN is either unable or unwilling to give to the East Malaysians. We’re talking about things like a larger percentage of oil royalties; removing illegal immigrants from the electoral rolls; and even promising a deputy prime minister position to an East Malaysian.
Secondly, Anwar is now able to contest, not just for parliament but for the PM of the country. This is a big psychological boost for Pakatan. It’s actually better for him to do so in a general election than a by-election because BN would not be able to concentrate all its efforts on defeating him when it is contesting in seats all over the country.
Thirdly, Pakatan MPs have so far held themselves up quite well, debating vigorously in parliament. Also, it helps that they’ve not held their positions long enough for voters to be potentially disillusioned or dissatisfied with them.
The candidacy selection process is always a difficult one for both coalitions under any circumstances. Under the current scenario, Pakatan would have it considerably easier than BN. It could simply stick to its winning formula from the last election, and possibly offering even better candidates in the seats that it did not win.
BN to face even tougher election
BN, in contrast, will have a much more difficult time.
One of Abdullah’s big challenges would be to ease out incumbents who have fallen out of favour and replacing them with new candidates for different strategic reasons. With a looming leadership challenge from Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and a potential challenge from Muhyiddin Yassin as well as possibly Najib Razak himself, the complications surrounding this process would be manifold.
For example, should he drop Razaleigh or Muhyiddin now that it’s apparent they are against him? Can he afford not to nominate them given the internal repercussions of such a move, not to mention the real possibility that these seats may be lost to the opposition if these two leaders are not contesting?
Then there are the others who, though not challengers for the Umno presidency, have openly voiced their opposition to Abdullah’s leadership. We’re talking about people like Mukhriz Mahathir and Dr Mohd Khir Toyo. How about the pros and cons of nominating people like Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who is a loyalist but who is unlikely to win back her constituency?
Whatever candidate mix Abdullah opts for, there’s bound to be discontent amongst the rank and file because Umno is currently so fragmented. The level of sabotage could reach historic proportions.
While there is uncertainty how the Malay ground would vote in a fresh election, especially if Umno politicians play up the race card, there is less uncertainty about how the non-Malays would vote. It’s highly unlikely that MCA, Gerakan or MIC would be able to improve on its performance in the last election.
While the leaders of the three parties have all become noticeably more outspoken, it’s also obvious that Umno is simply ignoring them, possibly because none of them are even cabinet members.
In contrast, non-Malay voters can also see for themselves that the DAP is by no means a junior partner in Pakatan and that has influence in the coalition, the likes of which MCA, Gerakan and MIC have never had in BN.
For the many reasons outlined above, we take a cautious view that Pakatan would actually fare even better in a new election than it did in the last one, which was already groundbreaking.
Yesterday – Snap polls: Why it’s unlikely to happen
Snap polls: Why it’s unlikely to happen
|Given the rumours of possible crossovers, some commentators have speculated that a snap election is in the offing. Such speculation increased after the Election Commission chairman asked his staff to be ready for yet another election.
If Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi maneuvers for a fresh election at the federal level, this must mean one of two things.Either he has credible intelligence that de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim has the necessary number of crossover members of parliament to form the next government or enough Barisan Nasional MPs have already declared publicly that they have switched over to Pakatan Rakyat.
In the first instance, it would be a pre-emptive strike. In the second, it would be to throw a spanner in the works so that Anwar doesn’t get what he wants without a fight.
We’ve argued in previous podcasts that we think that Anwar is bluffing – that he is aiming for the domino effect to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. So far, we’ve not seen anything new to change our minds.
Although there was some talk that the first wave of crossovers would happen by the end of May, so far nothing has happened. Abdullah’s recent announcement of goodies for Sabah might also help to stave off some defections.
But let’s say that Anwar somehow manages to create the perception that he has the necessary number of MPs, and a jittery Abdullah asks the king to dissolve parliament, there’s no guarantee the king will agree.
While the king has never in the past refused to dissolve parliament at the advice of the prime minister, these are unprecedented times. The king might very well decide that having another election so soon after the last one is unnecessarily disruptive to the country. This would be especially so if Abdullah is asking him to dissolve parliament on a pre-emptive basis.
What happens then if enough MPs actually cross over and Anwar calls for a vote of no confidence or directly requests the king to recognise him as the new PM?
If Anwar is able to get a comfortable majority, say 45 MPs, to defect, he’d have a pretty strong case for being recognised as the next PM. Abdullah, however, might be able to ask for a snap election on the grounds that the mass crossover is a form of electoral fraud. It would put the king in quite a spot and it’s hard to tell what he would actually do.
One factor which the king might consider is the racial composition of a Pakatan government. If Anwar only manages to convince Sabah and Sarawak MPs to cross over without any from the peninsula, there would actually be more non-Malay than Malay MPs in Pakatan (many East Malaysians are bumiputeras but not Malays).
Of course, there’s nothing in the constitution that says there needs to be more Malay than non-Malay MPs in the federal government. But having seen the sensitivity over race affect the formation of the state governments in Selangor and Perak, this factor is not something that should be discounted.
Anwar needs Umno defectors too
Knowing Anwar, he would not try to form the government without having at least some Umno crossovers from the peninsula, to increase the number of Malay MPs in Pakatan. In addition, he could propose a Malay-majority cabinet with most of the senior posts going to Malays. This could mitigate the fact that his government actually has more non-Malay than Malay MPs.
Another interesting factor that would affect the likelihood of a snap election being called is the sequence of defections. If Jeffrey Kitingan, PKR’s point-man in Sabah, is to be believed, the first wave of crossovers would come from Sabah, followed by the peninsula, and finally by Sarawak.
That’s clearly the game plan. That Sabah should be the first to make the move makes sense because Anwar has clearly been focusing on the MPs there. That Sarawak would be the last also makes sense considering the tight hold the chief minister there has on the state. There’s no reason for Sarawak to switch over unless it’s absolutely convinced that the BN government is about to fall, after witnessing Sabah and Peninsular MPs cross over.
However, there is another scenario that could play out given recent political developments. If Umno implodes – basically descend into an all-out factional war – that might very well be the tipping point for some Peninsular Umno MPs to start crossing over.
The losing or disgruntled faction would have every reason to switch over rather than be cast into political oblivion. By joining Pakatan, they get to become part of the new government. If Peninsular Umno MPs start crossing over, you can be sure Sabah and Sarawak MPs wouldn’t be far behind.
If such a scenario were to play out, any move by Abdullah to dissolve parliament would be moot as it would really be game over by then.
Tomorrow: Part 2
June 2, 2008
The ‘Walk for Press Freedom’ organisers will respond to a ministerial suggestion to put forward terms of reference for a proposed parliamentary select committee on media law reform.
De facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim had yesterday told the media fraternity and civil society to prepare the terms of reference for the committee.
“For all other select committees set up so far, on rape laws, national integration and integrity, the stakeholders have never been asked to prepare the terms of reference as this is the government’s job,” the organisers said in a statement.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the generous invitation and will seek the collaboration of other parties like the National Union of Journalists, National Press Club and Bar Council to prepare the terms of reference together.”
The statement was endorsed by media reform group Benar, Centre for Independent Journalism, bloggers alliance All Blogs and Writers Alliance for Media Independence.
The select committee is a core demand of a five-month campaign from May 3 – in conjunction with the World Press Freedom Day – to Sept 16.
The ‘Walk for Press Freedom’ yesterday was part of the campaign to highlight the demand for the select committee. The demand was first made by 37 civil society groups in 2006.
Share the blame
The groups are pushing for the committee to be set up, to launch comprehensive reform involving at least five laws – the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, Internal Security Act and Communications and Multimedia Act.
Yesterday, about 150 people participated in the 1km walk in a spontaneous decision after a dialogue with Zaid, during which he was booed repeatedly over his comments.
The minister said that media practitioners should share the blame for the sorry state of press freedom and should not just blame the government entirely.
He also told media freedom activists and journalists to look at themselves first before telling the government what to do, as he noted that the press is not united on media freedom.
The organisers echoed this in their statement, calling for journalists and editors to come together on media freedom.
“We believe the mainstream media have a professional obligation to advance the cause of media law reform by facilitating public debates and discussions,” they added.
“Notwithstanding this, the government must both recognise the public as a legitimate stakeholder and engage all stakeholders in media law reform.”
Yes, Naseer, I agree with you that Ruth is not only an extremely good looking Indonesian lass, but has a voice to soothe her fans and admirers. I thought you and my other bloggers will find my choice acceptable. May it begin a good week for all of you.
By the way my friend, Kermit The Frog, joins me in extending to you his warm wishes—Dee Jay Din Merican
For David Chew and other fans, here enjoy The Original Platters singing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”. Good old times.
And here is my tribute to my Bonda. Thanks, Adek Nasir for your composition and wonderful performance.