Another aborted Sime Deal: Focus on Business and Stop the Politics

KLIA East @ Labu ‘shelved’

P Stek | January 30, 2009

The RM1.6 billion KLIA East @ Labu has apparently been shelved following a meeting today between Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the two key project proponents – budget carrier AirAsia and conglomerate Sime Darby.

labu lcct low cost carrier terminal airport 070109According to sources, the Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) – the operator of Kuala Lumpur International Airport – has instead been given the go-ahead with its original plan to build a new low cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in KLIA. However, AirAsia is believed to have what it wanted – to be consulted with the design of the new LCCT and lower airport charges for the use of the terminal.

AirAsia has long argued for low airport charges to enable the budget carrier slash fares. The discount airline had on Jan 8 launched the bold plan for a dedicated low-cost airport near KLIA in Labu, Negri Sembilan, after expressing frustration over the lack of progress over MAHB’s own LCCT plan. The company cited efficiency, cost savings and the ability to better cater to the needs of its passengers as the main reasons for its move to build its own airport. It also expressed fears that the existing LCCT in Sepang will not be able to handle the 15 million passengers it is expecting by end of this year and up to 27 million by 2014.

The current LCCT can only handle 10 million passengers and this will be increased to 15 million passengers when a new wing opens in two months. AirAsia to send ‘wish list’ to MAHB AirAsia has been waging a war of words with MAHB over high airport charges in the past few years. A source familiar with today’s meeting described the outcome as a ‘win-win’ situation – MAHB will get more revenue from its new LCCT while AirAsia will have low airport charges. It is learnt that AirAsia will submit a ‘wish list’ to MAHB within the next few weeks.

The ‘wish list’ is likely to include a separate runway for the new LCCT to facilitate quick aircraft turnaround. AirAsia is also likely to insist on a low-cost airport design aimed at keeping airport charges to a minimum. The two – low airport charges and fast aircraft turnaround – are said to be crucial to AirAsia’s business model.  AirAsia’s KLIA East @ Labu project – to be built on land owned by project partner, Sime Darby – has been criticised by a number of top bloggers, including former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, since it was made public.

Mahathir has questioned the need for four airports to serve Kuala Lumpur and that KLIA has enough land for four
air asia pc labu low cost carrier terminal lcct 080109 airport terminal sketch 02 additional terminals and three runways to handle up to 125 million passengers a year. The project was put in doubt after Najib, who is also finance minister, told reporters last week that while the cabinet had given the green light to AirAsia’s airport, the government had “yet to make any decision” on the matter.

His announcement was contrary to a statement by Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat on December 21, 2008  who said that the government had approved the new airport at Labu.

Government’s reversal

The government’s reversal indicated that state-owned investment arm Khazanah Nasional, which has a majority stake in MAHB, was successful in lobbying Najib in the bid to protect its interests. Prime Minister-in-waiting Najib is expected to express his opposition to the project when the cabinet relook at the controversy at its weekly meeting next week.

When contacted, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes described today’s meeting as “very positive”. ‘(It’s) a big step forward for the development of AirAsia,” he told Malaysiakini. Also at the one-hour meeting this afternoon, where Fernandes gave a briefing on the ambitious AirAsia project, were Ong and officials from Economic Planning Unit.

A New Beginning

posted by din merican—January 29, 2009

by Malik Imtiaz Sarvar

Political analysis is useful for providing the insights that flow from the more rounded appreciation of context such analysis allows for. Without context the significance of specific action will elude us. For instance, a statement by a politician could mean one thing in isolation but mean something completely different when considered against a backdrop of political intrigue. Anwar Ibrahim saying that he has six defectors from the Barisan Nasional is in itself suggestive of nothing more than an erosion of political support for the BN. However, when viewed against all else that Anwar Ibrahim has been involved in these past six months, the statement potentially takes on added resonance.

Post March-8, there has been a sharp increase of political analysis on the Malaysian socio-political scene. The alternative media and blogs provide a veritable feast of information on a daily basis on a diverse range of subjects in the field. This has been a good thing for in setting out context, Malaysians have been more able to appreciate the many other ways of looking at things. They have also been able to see that free expression is something that does not harm our society as much as it does the politicians who hide their deficiencies behind such fears. Freer access to a range of diverse opinion has allowed for a maturing of the viewpoint of the Malaysian on the street.

There is however a downside, the root of which lies in the self-perception of the analyst that he and what he says is important. In their enthusiasm, analysts sometimes tend to forget that their analysis is not so much about their being able to do so but rather the truth of a given matter.

In an interview in 1993, the late Edward Said reflected that his meditations on politics and life had “always been a matter of exploration, of self-criticism and constant change in trying to surprise myself as well as my readers.” His reflection was prompted by a sense that public intellectuals tended to allow themselves to become “prisoners of their own language” and to be more concerned with “producing more work in fidelity to what they’d done before” at the expense of a truer perspective.

A noteworthy observation, it cautions against the very thing that seems to have occurred as the state of play between the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat intensifies. Analysis in these heightened times could be likened in many ways to commentary on a football league cup with many commentators having picked their side. Governance is, however, not about picking a side and sadly, more has been obscured than revealed by the parade of viewpoints and assessments.

In the run-up to the Kuala Trengganu by-election and its aftermath, we have been told what it all means for the BN, Abdullah Badawi, Najib Razak, the Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar Ibrahim. There are permutations upon permutations. We are asked to consider whether there was vote rigging, whether it is Abdullah Badawi that the people rejected or Najib or even the BN, whether it was the Chinese vote that swung the result or whether, as the MCA claims, the Chinese remained loyal to the MCA. We are told so many things in one form or the other, that in the end we are told very little.

For all this, nothing has been made clear and the question uppermost in mind is whether it really matters at all anymore who does what and how.

Whatever the spin or counter-spin, it is glaringly apparent that things are not as they should be in this country. Just as it is obvious that things should have been far better and could have been. It would not be incorrect to say that there are Malaysians who feel that they have come to be held hostage by an administration that is more concerned with protecting its own interests than those of the nation.

The state of flux points to many Malaysians having woken up to the fact. They want change in the most fundamental of ways: independence from a mindset that has left them colonized by an elite for its own benefit.

They are not fastidious as to who it is that becomes the Prime Minister of this country or who it is that forms the government. All they want is a government made up of men and women who believe in the ideals that the founders of this nation thought were a solid basis for a glorious future for all Malaysians. They want those men and women to believe in these ideals enough to get on with what needs to be done as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They want the respect that each and every one of them is entitled to as a citizen.

In one of the several speeches that President Barack Obama gave on his historic journey into Washington for his inauguration, he said: “What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives.”

It is the same for us. We are in search of a new Malaysia. To find it, we must embrace the possibilities. To do that, our minds and hearts need to be liberated.

It is time for a new beginning.

(Malay Mail: January, 20, 2009)

Kenyataan Media dari Pejabat Menteri Besar, Selangor: UMNO masih tipu rakyat


29hb Januari 2009


SHAH ALAM – Mesyuarat Stanco Tanah hari ini turut membincangkan isu projek penempatan semula setinggan Bukit Botak, Selayang yang melibatkan seramai 1400 pemilik tanah serta merangkumi keluasan tanah seluas 138 ekar. Delpuri Corporation Sdn. Bhd. (DCSB) telah dilantik sebagai kontraktor pada tahun 1999 oleh Kerajaan Negeri terdahulu bagi membangun dan menyusun semula penempatan setinggan Bukit Botak ke Taman Selayang Mutiara.

DCSB, selaku pemaju yang telah diamanahkan membangun dan menyusun semula penempatan setinggan Bukit Botak ke Taman Selayang Mutiara juga telah diarahkan membina rumah dan menyiapkan infrastruktur seperti pelan yang diluluskan oleh pihak berkuasa. DCSB dikehendaki menyediakan rumah transit atau memberi bantuan subsidi sewa rumah sebanyak RM300.00 kepada penduduk yang diarahkan mengosongkan tapak projek sehingga rumah siap. Sebagai balasan kepada usaha tersebut, penduduk telah memberi surat kuasa wakil (power of attorney) kepada DCSB untuk menyerahkan hak mereka keatas tanah tersebut kepada syarikat pemaju itu. Namun demikian, DCSB akhirnya tidak dapat meneruskan tanggungjawab mereka dan segala projek yang telah dirancang terbengkalai.

Tanpa membuat kajian yang menyeluruh, kerajaan negeri yang terdahulu telah meminta Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) mengambil alih projek terbengkalai dari DCSB. Setelah membuat penelitian, mesyuarat Lembaga Pengarah PKNS baru-baru ini telah membuat keputusan menghentikan kerja- kerja pembinaan di tapak dan memutuskan subsidi bayaran sewa ditamatkan hingga bulan Oktober 2008. Keputusan ini terpaksa dibuat kerana PKNS tidak mampu menanggung kos kerugian sebanyak RM140 juta jika meneruskan projek pembinaan berkenaan.

Walaupun Kerajaan Negeri mengambil berat tentang kesusahan yang dialami oleh rakyat, tetapi adalah tidak wajar untuk meletakkan beban keseluruhan kepada PKNS adalah tidak wajar hanya kerana Kerajaan terdahulu tidak dapat memantau projek-projek ini dengan baik. Tambah pula DCSB dibenarkan lepas tangan dalam hal ini.

Kerajaan Negeri amat berhasrat untuk menolong penduduk yang terlibat namun terhalang kerana hak kepada tanah yang terbabit masih lagi ditangan DCSB. Pertolongan yang wajar boleh dibuat sekiranya penduduk mendapat balik hak terhadap tanah dengan membatalkan surat kuasa wakil yang ditandatangani diantara para penduduk dan Syarikat DCSB. Dari sudut perundangan, Kerajaan Negeri mahupun PKNS tidak mempunyai hak untuk meneruskan pembangunan kerana penduduk yang juga pemilik tanah masih lagi terikat dengan terma-terma dalam perjanjian tersebut.

Setelah pembatalan kedua-dua perjanjian dilaksanakan barulah perbincangan dengan Kerajaan Negeri dapat dibuat bagi memutuskan bentuk penyelesaian yang lebih konkrit. Kerajaan Negeri berharap semua pihak memahami isu sebenar yang menghantui para penduduk Bukit Botak agar satu jalan penyelesaian dapat dilaksanakan secepat mungkin.


Ramlang Porigi: A Victim of UMNO Political Power Play

Former FT imam sacked after campaigning for Anwar Ibrahim
January 28, 2009

ramlang porigi and masjid wilayah persekutuanThe former imam who witnessed the oath-taking by alleged sodomy victim Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan – and then revealed details during the Permatang Pauh by-election – has been sacked from the Islamic Affairs Department Jakim.

Ramlang Porigi had been transferred to Jakim from his previous position as imam in the Federal Territory Mosque last September after he spoke at several forums during PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s campaign.

According to his lawyer, Ahmad Nizam Hamid, Ramlang received the termination letter last week – the grounds were that he had “spoilt the name of the public service”.

Ramlang has been slapped with four charges, three of them in relation to speaking on three separate occasions on August 24, 2008 during the Permatang Pauh campaign, Nizam told Malaysiakini.

The fourth charge – that he had held a press conference at noon of August 25 – is inaccurate, according to the lawyer.
azmin ramlang pc 250808 01 Nizam clarified that Ramlang had held a press conference with PKR vice-president Mohamad Azmin Ali and other opposition leaders after midnight (on August 26) at the Penanti services centre in Penang.

On August 15, Ramlang was among four officials of the Federal Territory Mosque who had been ordered to be present at the ceremony where Saiful (right in photo) swore he had been sodomised by Anwar last June.

Ramlang then appeared at three events organised by the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat – about 48 hours before polling day in Permatang Pauh.

He claimed that he had been directed to witness the Saiful’s oath-taking ceremony but did not state where the orders originated.

Request denied

Jakim director-general Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, in a letter which he signed as chairperson of a disciplinary board, Ramlang’s sacking was done under Regulation 38(g) of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993.

This was after the board met on Jan 16 this year and considered the facts of the case, the allegations against Ramlang as well as the written representations made by the latter.

However, Wan Mohamad added, Ramlang’s request for a domestic inquiry – following the show-cause letter issued to him last November – was denied “because the board is of the view that whatever statements that have been made are sufficient”.

Ramlang is allowed, according to Regulation 14 and 15(1), to submit a letter of appeal within two weeks of the date of the letter, said Wan Mohamad.

Nizam said an appeal would be lodged. On August 7, Anwar had pleaded not guilty at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to the act of sodomising Saiful at a condominium on June 26 last year.

How credible is Najib as Prime Minister?

posted by din merican—January 28, 2009

UMNO’s Reform Must Begin With Najib Razak

Dr.M. Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

It is not enough for Najib Razak and other UMNO leaders to lament the loss of their party’s “wow” factor, or for them to endlessly exhort the party faithful to “re-invent” or “re-brand” their organization. Reform is like sex; merely talking about it is not enough, for without the necessary accompanying actions it will only increase your frustration.

To regain voters’ confidence, the change in UMNO must begin with its top leaders, specifically Najib.  He has to demonstrate it through his actions; anything less and he risks frustrating voters and replicating the electoral disasters of Permatang Pauh and Kuala Trengganu nationally.

First and foremost Najib must legitimize his rise to the party’s top position.  Being “promoted” by Abdullah Badawi is no endorsement, being that Badawi is a discredited leader.  Likewise, being nominated unopposed is no ratification either, especially when the process is hopelessly riddled with “money politics,” otherwise known as corruption.

Second, Najib must display a sense of enlightened leadership.  For example, expending his precious time and political capital by intensively campaigning in a by-election that in his own words “would not alter the nation’s political landscape” was neither necessary nor prudent.  With the nation facing many critical crises, he should focus on more substantive matters.

Last, Najib must demonstrate that he has the personal qualities and moral integrity to lead the nation.  Merely denying that he had nothing to do with Saiful Bukhari, that college dropout who alleged that he had been sodomized by the opposition leader, or that Najib knew nothing of the brutal murder of that Mongolian model Altantuya and the attendant involvement of his hitherto closest advisor Razak Baginda, is not enough.  The public deserves better; we demand a more thorough accounting.

Until then, any utterance by Najib Razak about reforming UMNO will ring hollow; do not frustrate voters by unnecessarily raising their expectations. That is dangerous.

Legitimizing Najib’s Leadership

Najib’s only claim to his party’s leadership is that he is currently unopposed for that position.  Where the process is open and transparent, being unopposed signifies unanimous approval.  That is certainly any leader’s dream and rightful claim of legitimacy.

UMNO’s nominating process however, is deeply flawed, apart from being corrupt.  The “unanimous” choice of Najib is anything but.  The process is hollow and meaningless.  With “money politics” rampant, Najib’s nomination “victory” is irredeemably tainted.

The current nominating process is designed specifically to discourage or more correctly, prevent challengers.  It is not a genuine contest.  Requiring candidates be nominated by at least 30 percent of the party’s 191 divisions effectively means that at most there can only be three nominees.  That is an unnecessary barrier, meant not to get the best talent but to protect the incumbent.

This requirement was put in place only 20 years ago, following the bitter and divisive Mahathir-Tengku Razaleigh rivalry.  Before that, and for the first 40 years of UMNO’s existence, its leaders including Bapak Merdeka Tunku Abdul Rahman and the much-revered Tun Razak (Najib’s father) were routinely challenged at the party’s leadership convention.

The party can do without this burdensome nomination “quota rule” as well the equally damaging no-challenge “tradition” for its two top positions.  The party’s Supreme Council however, could override both.  While many of its senior members are in favor of dumping this onerous rule, Najib remains “neutral.”  That is not the mark of someone confident of his leadership ability.

If Najib were to introduce a motion at the next Supreme Council meeting to remove this “quota rule,” that would greatly enhance his legitimacy even if the Council were to vote against it.  If the Council were to vote for it, then the party would benefit by opening up the process and the delegates getting to preview many more potential candidates.

Such an open process would also effectively blunt the current corrosive influence of “money politics” as there would be no need to bribe divisional leaders in order to secure your nomination.  And at the party’s elections, with over 2,000 delegates, it would be difficult if not impossible to bribe them all.  You could influence them only with your ideas and talent, as it should be.

Removing the quota would of course invite challengers to Najib.  Tengku Razaleigh would definitely be one; there may be others.  There would also be additional candidates for all the other positions.

If Najib were to survive a challenge from Tengku Razaleigh for example, Najib’s stature and legitimacy would be greatly enhanced.  That would effectively shut up his many critics.

Of course Najib could lose, and with that, his political career.  That may explain his reluctance to tamper with the current quota rules which work in his favor.  While such a maneuver would secure his immediate political survival, he would critically jeopardize his party’s chance in the next national elections.  Presently many, and not just those outside of UMNO and Barisan, question his ability and legitimacy.  Najib would be sacrificing his party’s future just to ensure his short-term political survival.

Articulating His Vision

Even if Najib were to prevail in an open contest, he still needs to articulate his vision for the future of our nation.  He has to convince us that he has “the right stuff.”  He has to give us his personal manifesto, as it were.  And he has to do that now before his party’s convention in March, for at that time he would be more concerned with rallying his troops.

The prevailing perception is that Najib owes his current position merely by being the son of a famous father.  To non-Malays specifically, Najib has yet to erase the ugly image of the keris-taunting antics of his UMNO Youth’s days.  Additionally his career, while long, is very narrow; he spent his entire adult life in government, getting his paycheck from taxpayers.

Like his immediate predecessor Abdullah Badawi, there is nothing substantial to Najib’s career in politics despite his overflowing resume.  His tenure as Defense Minister was marked by the collapse of the Pularek Naval Base just before its official opening, the gross breach of security by the Al Muanah gang at the Grik Army base in Perak, and the now evolving scandal with the French submarine purchase.  As for his legacy as Education Minister, good luck in discerning that.

Now as Finance Minister, he remains disturbingly quiet; he has nothing to offer on how to solve the grave economic challenges facing us except to issue bland, meaningless reassurances. In contrast, Tengku Razaleigh bravely outlined his views of the current economic crisis and his bold strategies to deal with it.  Compared to the towering leadership of the Tengku, Najib looks like a novice Boy Scout troop leader constantly looking to his manual on how to lead.

Demonstrating His Integrity

Lastly, Najib must clarify the many sordid allegations and rumors implicating him.  Bland denials alone are not enough.

The most damaging, and which requires the most detailed explanation, is his role in (if any) or knowledge of the murder of the Mongolian model and the involvement of his confidant Razak Baginda.  That Razak Baginda was acquitted does not clear the matter.

The accusations leveled at Najib are too specific and detailed (including specific SMS texts and cell phone numbers) that they demand a more complete explanation from him.  Hiding behind client-attorney privilege as Najib did in trying to dismiss the many SMS between him and Shafie Abdullah, the attorney who was at the time representing Razak Baginda, is inappropriate.  For one, Najib was not Shafie’s client, then or now.  Indeed at that time Shafie was representing Razak Baginda, until he (Razak) dismissed Shafie.  For another, such a “cover” would not sell in the court of public opinion.

Those details of the Altantuya murder, as well as the sordid mess of the Saiful Bukhari sodomy allegation, will eventually be revealed bit by bit in their respective criminal trials.  A full disclosure now by Najib would help preempt the inevitable excruciating and embarrassing details.

Najib Razak may become the leader of UMNO and thus Malaysia’s next Prime Minister come this March without bothering to address these three issues.  However, the next General Elections will be less than 48 months away after he becomes Prime Minister.  If not addressed frontally and openly now, these questions about his ability, integrity and legitimacy would only get worse.  Yes, Najib may get his wish, but he could also end up being the nation’s shortest-serving leader, for come the next national election, Najib and UMNO will be buried.

That would be quite a legacy for the son of a great patriot.  Perversely then, Najib’s political demise would of necessity trigger and be instrumental in UMNO’s reform.  By that time it may be too late to alter UMNO’s fate, but at least you would have fun knowing that you are doing something productive.

RPK’s Second Open to The Prime Minister: Police Brutality and No Confidence in Najib

Today, to celebrate Chinese New Year, RPK sends his second open letter to Pak Lah, which touches on the problem of police brutality and the vote of no confidence against Najib in the recent Kuala Terengganu by-election.

January 26, 2009

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Prime Minister’s Office
Main Block
Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya

Dear Pak Lah,

Kong Hee Fatt Choy, Pak Lah. I trust this second open letter finds you in good health. I was told by a reliable source that you read my first open letter . So I thought, since this appears to be the only way to reach you, I would send you a second open letter. I truly hope you get to read this one as well.

Sorry I was not able to also send you my Selamat Hari Raya Puasa wishes. It is not that Chinese New Year is more important than Hari Raya. During Hari Raya Puasa I was in the Kamunting Detention Centre, courtesy of your government. So, I sort of missed Hari Raya, if you know what I mean. But I believe my friends did attend your open house at the PWTC to send you Hari Raya wishes on my behalf, wearing ‘Free RPK’ T-shirts, much to the chagrin of the police who summoned them to the police station later for their ‘statements to be recorded’.

In the past I used to be sad if I was ever away from the family on Hari Raya, not that it happened too often. Even rough and tough Malaysian soldiers serving overseas cry on Hari Raya, so I was told. So it’s not lack of macho that makes you sad when parted from the family on Hari Raya. This time, however, anger overcame my sadness. Instead of being sad, I decided to ‘boycott’ Hari Raya. Maybe anger is a stronger emotion. Anyway, I did not celebrate the recent Hari Raya Haji as well, though I had already been released from detention by then. I have sort of shut out Hari Raya from my mind and have convinced myself that the festival does not exist. I think, from now on, Hari Raya no longer means anything to me.

I suppose this is very useful considering the Attorney General is appealing the Shah Alam High Court decision of releasing me from ISA detention. The government’s appeal will be heard in the Federal Court in Putrajaya on 11 February 2009 and if the Federal Court allows the appeal then I will be sent back to Kamunting to serve my two-year detention order. So it is necessary that I continue being angry and not get sad about things like being under detention during Hari Raya. Anger makes you strong to resist the powers-that-be. Sadness weakens you.

I really don’t know if the Federal Court will uphold the Shah Alam High Court’s decision to free me. If it does, well and good. But if it overturns that decision then you better get ready for a bloody fight, Pak Lah. Sure, the government can ‘legally’ send me back to Kamunting. But I shall be going back there screaming and kicking. The government is going to see a fight never before seen in the history of the almost 50 years of the ISA. And this is no threat. It is a promise. And, as I said, anger is an extremely powerful emotion, which can make you move mountains.

Anyway, that is not the purpose of this open letter. What I want to talk about today is with regards to the current controversy swamping this country, in particular the police brutality issue. This is actually not something new. It has been going on since before Merdeka. When I was a teenager in the 1960s I have personally witnessed and experienced many incidences of police beatings. Your late wife Endon’s brother, Osman, can testify to this. When I got my motorcycle licence at the age of 15 in 1965, my first bike ride was with Osman. I fetched him from your house in Bellamy Road and we went to Jackie’s Bowl in Jalan Ampang and got high on weed all night long.

You see, Pak Lah, in those days we used to sport long hair and wear tight trousers and the police somehow became very upset with this ‘fashion statement’. The police would push a bottle down our trousers and if it could not fall to our feet then we would get beaten up. The same applied to our hair. If it dropped over our forehead or touched our ears we would get beaten up as well. So imagine what we had to go through in the 1960s since we had long hair and wore tight trousers. As I said, Osman, the brother of your late wife, can tell you more about this as we used to run in the same pack.

One night in 1965, while waiting at a bus stop along Jalan Ampang (in front of the El Chico next to the AIA building), a few of us — Tun Dr Siti Hasmah’s nephew, Azlan Aziz, included — were picked up by the police. Our only ‘crime’ was that we were sitting at the bus stop. The police took us to the High Street Police Station and we were all asked to line up to witness the police beating up a Chinese youth. They beat him real bad and he was coughing blood. I don’t know if he died after that but I would not want to put my money on whether he survived.

It became so bad that whenever we saw the police we would run away. We actually became quite good at it. For example, once, about ten of us were sitting on our bikes in front of the HKL and a police van stopped and about a dozen police jumped out. We leaped on our bikes and managed to escape just as the police were within an arms-length from us. They pursued us along Jalan Tun Razak with little success. Our bike numbers were on the top-ten list of the police’s ‘most wanted’ but they never caught us. We knew if they did they would beat the shit out of us so it was definitely an ‘incentive’ for us to never get caught.

That was how it was back in the 1960s and, trust me, it has not changed one bit. The police still beat the shit out of you if you ever find yourself in the most unfortunate situation of ending up in their lockup. In fact, your Director of the CID, Bakri Zinin, once beat me up in March 2001 in front of my wife and six other detainees and about a dozen police personnel.

My only ‘crime’ was that I had walked into the Dang Wangi Police Station. I had not committed any crime or was under arrest. I had, on my own accord, walked into the police station and Bakri Zinin happened to be in the mood to beat someone up. So he beat me up. After he beat me up he arrested me and kept me overnight in the lockup under no charges whatsoever. That is how your police operate. And these are all Muslims, mind you. I bet they even pray five times a day and their wives wear tudongs. Now do you know why I am most unkind to Muslims? Many are hypocrites of the highest degree.

I know you tried to implement the IPCMC but were prevented from doing so. And the reason you are not able to implement the IPCMC is because the police, whom represent the major portion of postal voters, threatened to vote opposition if you do. (IPCMC: Police threaten to vote for the Opposition).

In the March 2008 general election, the opposition needed only 300,000 more votes to form the federal government. Therefore, if the postal votes had gone to the opposition, Barisan Nasional would have been out of power. To ensure that the postal votes remained with Barisan Nasional you succumbed to the threats and agreed to compromise on the IPCMC.

In that sense, Pak Lah, you are indirectly responsible for the continuing problem of police brutality. What the police are doing is your fault. This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog and not the dog wagging the tail. Maybe you would like to reconsider your decision on the IPCMC and demonstrate to the nation that you, and not the police, are running this country.

While on the subject of the police, let it be known that the police managed to reduce Pakatan Rakyat’s majority in the recent Kuala Terengganu by-election from more than 7,000 votes to a mere 2,631. And I have this on video if you would like to see the evidence. You know that the opposition’s majority in the Kuala Terengganu by-election was much higher than 2,631. And I am sure this is troubling you to no end. And I am equally sure you know that this is because the people do not want Najib Tun Razak to take over as Prime Minister in March. As much as you may try to deny this you know I am spot on.

At 3.00pm on Polling Day, the police set up ten roadblocks and no one in town could get out nor those outside town could get in. Kuala Terengganu was totally cordoned off and the traffic jams were so massive that the town was reduced to a gridlock. I was arguing with the police at three different locations and, as I said, I have this on video. At one roadblock, when the police told me that this was ‘arahan dari atas’, I responded by saying that ‘kalau orang atas bodoh dan kita ikut arahan tersebut maka kita juga bodoh’. You should have seen the police stare at me. They looked like they wanted to kill me.

By 4.00pm, voting almost ground to a halt and the 74% voter turnout troubled me. 74% was too low, and since the SPR had announced earlier that morning that the voter turnout was going to be 80%, I was worried that this would mean another 6% or so were going to be ‘phantom voters’. True enough, an hour later, when polling ended, the voter turnout jumped to 81%. It was later ‘adjusted’ to 79%. This means 5% to 7% additional votes came in, although no one was voting any longer. This represents about 5,000 votes or thereabouts.

Say what you like, the opposition not only won the Kuala Terengganu by-election, but it won with a larger majority. And this was in spite of Najib and his wife campaigning fulltime in Terengganu and the RM500 million that was committed to the by-election effort. No doubt RM400 million was spent indirectly when Najib launched the special investment fund. Nevertheless, this RM400 million was still for purposes of the by-election and no one can deny this.

Mind you, the RM500 million is just my conservative estimate. It could be more. But it still makes the Kuala Terengganu by-election the most expensive by-election in Malaysian history and yet Barisan Nasional lost, whether it was by 2,631 votes or 7,631 votes. The police air-conditioned tents alone came to RM10 million. The food, at about RM50 to RM60 per day per person over three weeks, came to another RM10 million. Then there was the outstation allowance and so on. I estimate the cost of stationing 8,000 police personnel in Kuala Terengganu over three weeks at about RM25 million to RM30 million. And it could actually be more considering the normal ‘leakages’ in government expenditure.

Then there are the many free dinners and the RM300 to RM1,000 ‘Ang Pows’ for the 80,000 or so voters. Even the press people received RM300 Ang Pows each, though none were offered to the Bloggers, for whatever reason I do not know.

Are you happy, Pak Lah, that Najib spent about RM500 million in the most expensive by-election in Malaysian history and Barisan Nasional still lost? How does this reflect on the confidence the people have in Najib? Do you know that the ‘battle-cry’ in the Kuala Terengganu by-election was the song ‘Najib Altantuya Mongolia’ sung to the tune ‘When the Saints Come Marching in’? Young Malays from the kampong who you would least expect to know this ‘Christian’ song were singing this song.

Yes, say what you like, the Kuala Terengganu by-election was not a by-election. It was a vote of no confidence against Najib. And it was the Malays who voted against Najib — and young Malays at that, Malays from the kampong. Did not Musa Hitam and Ghafar Baba, both one-time Deputy Prime Ministers, say that UMNO’s strength is in the rural areas and that UMNO needs to gain the support of the kampong Malays to stay in power? Well, the kampong Malays have spoken on 21 January 2009 in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. I am just not sure whether you heard them; that’s all. If you did not then I am telling you now. The young Malays from the kampong have said no to Najib. Do you still want to ignore this message and doom Umno to the political graveyard?

There is much more I need to tell you but allow me to end my open letter here, for the meantime. I now need to go attend the PKR Chinese New Year open house in Kelang and go hassle Anwar Ibrahim on this Anti-ISA thing that I want the five Pakatan Rakyat states to commit themselves to.

Till we talk again, take care, as there are many surrounding you with daggers drawn — which makes Julius Caesar’s predicament a picnic by comparison. Is it not ironical that in your present situation you can trust your enemies more than your friends? Anyway, once again, Kong Hee Fatt Choy, Pak Lah.

Yours truly,

Raja Petra Al Haj Bin Raja Kamarudin

Congrats Steven,Pramesh, my friends and associates

posted by din merican–January 28, 2009

Cyber-paper at vanguard of media revolution
January 27, 2009

A Malaysian newspaper that exists only in cyberspace has inspired a torrent of online debate since its launch a decade ago, in a phenomenon that has shaken up the nation’s media and political scene.

The pioneering website Malaysiakini and the thriving political blogosphere it helped spawn have been key to the rise of the opposition which after decades of obscurity now has a real chance of gaining power.

“The Malaysian blogosphere has really exploded and pushed the boundaries of press freedom in Malaysia in unprecedented ways,” said Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative for the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Without question Malaysiakini was on the vanguard of the Malaysian online news phenomenon and provided a brave, bold example that this whole generation of online bloggers and news providers has been able to draw on,” he said.

Malaysiakini – ‘Malaysia Now’ – stumbled into a void waiting to be filled in a country where the government-friendly media have close ties to political parties, and where new publishing licences are virtually unheard of.

It was the vanguard for a flowering of news and views from a wide range of commentators, who use the relative freedom of the Internet to broach once-taboo topics such as opposition politics, race and religion.

It’s all a long way from 1999 when founders Steven Gan and Pramesh Chandran launched Malaysiakini online, at a time when many people were only just signing up for email accounts and learning how to navigate the Internet.after permatang talk steven gan

“The Internet was our last resort. I knew we wouldn’t reach a lot of people but we had no choice as we didn’t get a publishing licence,” Gan said in an interview at his headquarters in Kuala Lumpur’s lively Bangsar district.

“We thought we’d run it like any other media organisation as that was where our experience was, and make it different from other political websites by being credible and professional.”

The path has not been all smooth. Malaysiakini’s offices were raided in 2003, staff were banned from official events until recently, and the mostly young employees have made some errors and mis-steps.

But the editorial team has expanded from four to 25, daily hits have peaked at 500,000 during major events when the subscription-only site is thrown open to the public, and it has been profitable for the past four years.

The Internet-led news phenomenon helped breath life into the opposition just as its figurehead, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was returning to the political stage after a spell in jail.

In March 2008 general elections, his opposition alliance seized five states and a third of parliamentary seats, humbling the coalition which has dominated Malaysia for half a century since independence from Britain.

A big mistake

The political earthquake stunned the government which had vilified bloggers and threatened them with jail. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted his “biggest mistake” had been to ignore cyber-campaigning.

“We thought that the newspapers, the print media and television were important, but young people were looking at SMS and blogs,” he said.

James Chin from the Kuala Lumpur campus of Australia’s Monash University, said Malaysia’s vibrant online scene was the result of a unique set of factors including a muzzled mainstream media and relatively good Internet access.

“Malaysiakini could only have existed in places like Malaysia, Singapore or Burma, simply because the mainstream press have no credibility,” the political analyst said.

The phenomenon has also provided more space for the mainstream media – which largely practices self-censorship – to cover stories that in the past they would have had to ignore, he said.

“The traditional press can justify covering a story because they can argue that it’s already in the public domain,” Chin said. “They act as a safety valve for local papers.”

Jeff Ooi, one of the nation’s top bloggers who has now become an opposition parliamentarian, said there were fears that deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak, who will replace Abdullah in March, could clamp down on the Internet.

Malaysia made a 1996 pledge not to censor the Internet, but websites and blogs are still subject to strict slander and security laws which critics say can be wielded as political weapons.

Another high-profile blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, an outspoken critic of the government, was jailed for two months last year under an internal security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

But Chin said the Malaysian blogosphere is now so large and diverse, with many pro-government sites also reaching a wide audience, that the genie can never be put back in the bottle.

“It’s unclampable right now. The Internet has gone far beyond the conventional control methodology,” he said.

“Regulators are saying that whatever is illegal offline is illegal online, but there are loopholes that mean bloggers are still having a heyday.”


Ezam Noor: A bitter man who lost his marbles in UMNO politics

posted by din merican—January 27, 2009

Ezam Mohd Noor: A moribund character
Ahmad Kadir | January 23, 2009

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Ezam vows to ‘diminish’ Anwar’s influence.

Ezam Mohd Noor was the most juvenile and vulgar element of PKR during the reformasi years. He called Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad unprintable names. All is captured in video and writing. Why was Ezam behaving like this? The reason is because he didn’t have higher ideals.

He was literally worshiping Anwar Ibrahim. He was a young man who was angry that he was ejected out of power. Of course, he didn’t have power but walking on the red carpets laid down for Anwar was too tantalising.

Ezam paid the price for his Anwar worship and went to jail. Mahathir left office and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi riding on a ‘Oh…Mahathir left’ popular wave cruised to a crushing BN victory. In the process, Ezam’s dubious character of eating from both camps was unearthed.

Anwar Ibrahim was released. He went abroad both for medical reasons and also as he said, to ‘give Abdullah enough space to operate.’ He started rebuilding a tattered party, building alliances, bridging gaps and formulating policies. It was here that Anwar was forced to choose his soldiers wisely.

Having learnt from his 1998 episode, Anwar became stealthy and very cautious. Though accommodative to all, he trusted few. Despite going to jail for his worship, Ezam was not part of the trusted lieutenants in the new era despite being one in the past. Though I’m not a PKR member, I generally support PAS and PKR and have many good friends in both parties.

A highly placed PKR man told me: ‘Anwar opted for cautious people like him and it was here that Azmin Ali carried the day.’ Ezam quit PKR. As we remember, he said Anwar was ‘a dictator’ and Azmin Ali a chief manipulator (in that he manipulated Anwar into becoming his right hand man – a job Ezam wanted).

During the Permatang Pauh by-election, Ezam reveals his inherent jealousy and said: ‘I have not been accommodated in PKR as I wanted which I suffered for.’ No need to explain this.

Ezam formed GERAK (ironically bankrolled by UMNO’s most corrupted man). He languished in obscurity and irrelevance though he continued lashing out at UMNO and claiming that he will lodge report after report on its ‘massive corruption’. It remained so until the March 2008 came when Anwar led three disparate parties to a historical win. Then Anwar started courting BN MPs, and UMNO went into panic overdrive.

Khairy Jamaluddin brought in Ezam in the hope that he will blunt Anwar’s advances. The problem was that Ezam was not a leader of any group or society. He has never been a state assembly person let alone an MP. His only claim to office (and fame ) as his being an Anwar’s clerk.

During the Permatang Pauh by-election he went round inventing every imaginable calumny against Anwar. The trouble was he had done the same to others before and people knew this. So his rants didn’t hold water. His and UMNO’s politics were rejected in a resounding manner. He went underground and was only found when the Kuala Terengganu by-election arose.

Ezam’s desperate antics went a notch higher in KT. He came up with another joke. ‘The six boxes are kept outside the country’ by Anwar he claimed. Subhannalah! Now that was the biggest joke he had made in one decade.

‘The boxes contain evidence against Anwar’s cronies and because of that I left PKR’ he said. Ya Allah! Never mind what he has been saying for years and years that the boxes were in relation to Mahathir and UMNO!

Then came the most base move he could make – the Anwar Ibrahim letter. He threatened to reveal a letter in which Anwar sought to make peace with Mahathir. His paralysed personality and feeble mind was on display for all to see. For one, the letter he showed was published in 1999 in the ‘Free Anwar Ibrahim’ Campaign website. It was also published in many other personal blogs and was also published in ‘Malaysia-Today’ last year.

But the shock was when Ezam claimed that he sought the permission of Abdullah and Najib to reveal the letter. I couldn’t believe what I read. If that’s true, then it proves that Dollah and Najib are beyond salvation. How can you seek permission for a letter that has been in the public domain for 10 years?

And the letter showed the positive nature of Anwar more than any anything else. What is the wisdom behind ‘revealing’ it? But that’s what you get when you rely on scandalous minds.

When Pakatan Rakyat was using dignified people like former UMNO Petaling Jaya Selatan division leader Capt (R) Zahar Hashim and Zaid Ibrahim, UMNO (or rather Najib and Abdullah since ordinary UMNO members avoided him) were using Ezam.

You think people fail to make comparisons? To compare notes? Who told you badmouthing your opponent, particularly over a case of ‘sour grapes’, makes you gain ground? Who told you employing dubious elements convinces people?

Remember, voters have dignity and they have issues and questions. They want those answered and they want the ones who are answering to be impeccable.

Ezam was there vomiting on the shoes of UMNO and its leaders before and he was there doing the same in Kuala Terengganu. He even dared PAS Vice-President Husam Musa. As usual, Ezam swore and challenged Husam to do the same and meet for a swearing session. Knowing his diseased ego, Husam answered that swearing was for those who weren’t sure of themselves and that he (Husam) was not a tokoh unlike Ezam. It was a devastating sarcasm.

Finally, this is my advice to Ezam. You claim to be fighting for Islam and the Malay people. Sir, neither Islam nor the Malays have ordained you to speak on their behalf. Islam has its Protector in Allah the Almighty. Furthermore, Islam is about ideals, dignity, trustworthiness, shyness, humility, manners, patience, benevolence, forgiveness, humbleness and you exhibit none. Go and learn Islam before you ‘defend’ it.

I hope that you will do some good for your wife, children and parents by carrying yourself with dignity. I doubt you can, but I really feel disturbed that you are putting your own parents and children in the line of disdain and ridicule. Go and do something good with your life.

The UMNO “Wow Factor” (A Satire): The Way to Lose Elections

posted by din merican—january 26, 2009)

(from Farish Noor in Indonesia via Facebook)

The UMNO ‘Wow Factor’

A farmer named Lakbir Singh was overseeing his herd in a remote pasture in Bolehland when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young Malay man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the farmer, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?” Lakbir looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within mere seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data is stored.

He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the farmer and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.” “That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Lakbir. He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Lakbir says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?” The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?” “You’re a graduate from Oxford and a Member of Parliament for UMNO,” says Lakbir.

“Wow! That’s correct,” exclaims the yuppie with the customary UMNO’s Wow Factor, “But how did you guess that?” “No guessing required,” answered Lakbir. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, and to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter you are, and you don’t know a thing about cows. This is a herd of sheep. Now give me back my dog.”

A new PKR man in Perak

Perak: UMNO ADUN defects to PKR
January 25, 2009

Bota assemblyperson Nasarudin Hashim has quit UMNO to join PKR, resulting in Pakatan Rakyat now controlling 32 state seats in Perak.

When contacted, Perak Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin told Bernama that Nasaruddin made an announcement that he was joining PKR at the party’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

With this development, the BN seats have been reduced to 27, (UMNO 26  and MCA 1). Nasaruddin, 58, is also a former chairperson of the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra).

Beginning of a new wave’

Meanwhile, Nasaruddin in a press statement posted on PKR advisor Anwar Ibrahim’s website, said he took the decision after considering the interests of his constituents.

In the general election held in March last year, Nasaruddin defeated PKR candidate Capt (Rtd) Usaili Alias by a majority of 2,068 votes.

There had been talk that Nasaruddin might quit UMNO after he lost in the contest for the division head post of Parit UMNO, two months ago. He had been the deputy head of the division prior to the contest.

In a related development, Anwar Ibrahim said Nasaruddin’s decision is critical and reflected the sentiments of his voters, namely the Malays in his constituency. He said this reflected the demand of the public and saw it “as the beginning of a new wave,” when quizzed over the significance of the move.

Farish Noor on P-36 Kuala Terengganu: Change rather than Continuity

by Farish Noor

(The Straits Times) January 24, 2009 — The outcome of the recent by-election in Kuala Terengganu sounded a wake-up call in the corridors of power in Malaysia and among the senior leadership of the ruling UMNO in particular.

As the votes were being counted, it became evident that the Pas candidate was on the winning side and that the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat would add one more to its parliamentary number. The turnout in the by-election was the same as for the March 8 general election, though in this case UMNO’s slim majority before was converted into a 2,000-vote majority for Pas.

The following salient points can be noted in the voting pattern in the Kuala Terengganu by-election: In the predominantly Chinese or in the areas where there was significant non-Malay representation, the voters by and large stood by the Barisan Nasional government.

It was in the predominantly Malay-Muslim areas where the swing to Pas occurred. This indicates some dissatisfaction among the Malays with the governing standards of the UMNO-led government. It was in some respects a protest vote but it was not purely negative in its intent: By the time the result was announced, the streets of Kuala Terengganu had swelled with scores of Pas supporters celebrating their victory. It was clear voters had voted for Pas as much as against UMNO.

Senior UMNO leaders reacted to the result the next day by passing the buck. In the run-up to the by-election, the UMNO candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh had even been dismissed as a weak candidate by none other than former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Pas candidate Abdul Wahid Endut got off lightly in a campaign that was not marred by personal attacks on either candidate.

This is the third by-election loss for BN since the general election last year — the third time its entire machinery and the personal campaign appearances of its most senior politicians were unable to turn the tide.

One member of Gerakan, a component party in the BN coalition, said on the last day of campaigning: “There is no point in us (Gerakan) being here any more. What can we do? The people just don’t want UMNO  any longer.” The defeat has focused attention yet again on Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Rajak, who is scheduled to take over as Prime Minister in March. The son of Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second prime minister, Najib comes from one of the oldest Malay aristocratic families, long acquainted with the vicissitudes of the country’s convoluted politics. The by-election result indicates not only Umno’s unpopularity but also Najib’s standing and credibility with Malays at the moment.

Family connections and history aside, it is perhaps the longevity of Najib’s association with power that bedevils him at present. For the older UMNO elite, his standing is determined by the fact that he comes from one of the oldest ruling families of Malaysia. But this social capital is useless in the context of a new Malaysia, where an entirely new generation of younger voters has come to the fore. They know they can determine their own fate at the ballot box.

Malaysia today is not the same country that it was during the economic crisis of 1997-98. At that time, the total number of Internet users was less than half a million. Today, more than 12 million Malaysians are registered Internet users. This has created one of the most wired-up, clued-up and mobilised societies in the region.

Malaysia’s urban landscape has also changed, with younger faces leading think tanks, non-governmental organisations and even state assemblies. Despite legal restrictions, political activism is alive again on campuses.

All of these seem to have passed under the radar of the cloistered UMNO-BN elite. They bemoan their inability to arrest the process of change in the country. Yet it is the result of a globalisation process that went hand in hand with rapid development. A new generation of politicians will have to address this newly emerging society that is more vocal and assertive than ever before.

Can Najib, the son of the prime minister who introduced the New Economic Policy in the 1970s, address these challenges in time to save himself and his party? Or has the weight of history, patronage and institutional inertia rendered all attempts at reform within UMNO redundant?

Judging by the Kuala Terengganu by-election result, it would appear that the public — in particular, Malays — has already made its choice: It is one for change rather than continuity. — Straits Times

Patrizio Buane entertains you this weekend


For this weekend, I feature popular Italian balladeer, Patrizio Buane. This is a departure from my usual posting of jazz and music of 50’s and 60’s. I hope you enjoy the Buane renditions I have chosen for you. Gong Xi Fa Cai to all Malaysians who celebrate this festival. To those of you who are travelling to your respective home towns for your traditional family dinner, please drive with care.—DJ Din Merican

My Love, Forgive Me (in Italian)

The Italian (in Italian)

Quando, Quando, Quando

The Malaysian DJ Blogger Marries His Cik Cun–January 23,2009

Friends and associates, from near and far,

With this ring I wed thee, Kamsiah


At a simple Akad Nikah ceremony presided by Ustaz Haji Suhaimi Wakid on the 6th Floor of Menara Utara, JAIS Complex, Shah Alam, Selangor, I married my Cik Cun (Dr. Kamsiah G. Haider) today. Also present were my architect son, Jeffri and my friends, img_1473Shogun Shah, Badardin Ahmad and Annuar Mohamed. Rose (Annuar’s wife) and Elia Zulhisham (Dr. Kamsiah’s lovely daughter ) were with her throughout the ceremony. It is especially significant for me to have Elia present as she added so much joy to her mom, Kamsiah who is now my wife. I too was pleased to have met her. She was elegant and smart.

With lovely Elia (center) at Menara Utara, Shah Alam


I fumbled a couple of times during the cerem0ny. Even a cool guy like me can get a little nervous as I pronounced my marital vows. I suppose, I can be forgiven as I have been a singleton for 12 years. You can see the relief in my face after the ceremony was over.

I am grateful to YB. Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Menteri Besar of Selangor and his staff in JAIS especially Ustaz Haji Suhaimi who seemed to enjoy putting me in a corner, for their support and encouragement. I value Ustaz Haji Suhaimi’s brief sermon (khutbah nikah) on marriage, reminding me of the responsibilities of a Muslim husband to his wife.

To Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Dr. Syed Husin and my PKR colleagues (Dato Sallehuddin Hashim, Dato Zaharain Hashim, Khalid Jaafar, Ibrahim Yaccob, Tian Chua, William Leong, Gopalakrishnan, Yusmadi Yusof, Nik Nazmi, Najwan Halimi, Eekmal Ahmad, Farhash Salvador Wafa and others), Chin Wee Loon (Penang), and members of Barisan Rakyat Bloggers team led by Raja Petra, thanks for their word of encouragement and understanding.

I am happy to mention my PFS contemporaries (Dato Lim Say Chong, Goh Thong Beng, Tan Sri Ismail Merican and Tan Sri Dr. Lim Ewe Jin among others), Dato David Yeoh, Dato Michael Bong, P.H. Wong, and Dr. Lim Teck Ghee who have been kind and supportive.

I am indebted to Cik Tun, Kamsiah’s mom, her brothers, Salim G. Haider, Mohd Noor Khan G. Haider and her other family members for accepting me into their close knit and mutually supportive family. I pledge to do my best.

Thank you all for your support of this blog. Gong Xi Fa Cai in the Year of the Ox—Kamsiah G. Haider and Din Merican


Anil Netto: On P-36 Kuala Terengganu

KT polls debacle may hit reforms
Anil Netto | January 23, 2009

A key parliamentary by-election last Saturday that fell to a resurgent opposition alliance has piled pressure on prime minister-to-be Najib Abdul Razak.

At issue now is whether the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition he leads is capable of pushing through reforms which many believe are vital for the long-term prospects of the coalition.

Najib, who spearheaded the BN’s campaign in Kuala Terengganu, capital of the oil-rich east coast state of Terengganu, was unable to stop a swing to the Pakatan Rakyat, made up of the three main opposition parties.

The ruling coalition had won the Terengganu seat by a 628-majority in last March’s watershed general election, which saw the opposition making sharp inroads, wresting control of five states in the 13-state federation.

But this time, Kuala Terengganu fell to PAS, representing the Pakatan, by a 2,631 majority. Much of the vote swing came from young Malays, and that spells trouble in the long run for UMNO, the dominant party in the BN coalition.

Although the by-election had no bearing on the balance of power – the Pakatan alliance increased its share of seats to 83 in the 222-seat Parliament – many saw it as a referendum on Najib.

The deputy premier is expected to take over the top job from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in March, following a leadership transition scheme hatched out last September by UMNO leaders, who had effectively pinned the blame for the BN’s general election setback last year on Prime Minister Abdullah.

This time much of the responsibility for the defeat falls on Najib’s shoulders. ”If Najib thought he was going to have it easy, this by-election has been a rude shock for him,” says opposition activist Medaline Chang, who helped to campaign for Pakatan in Kuala Terengganu.

It was the second time Najib had led the ruling coalition to defeat in a by-election campaign. Last August, the ruling coalition lost the Permatang Pauh by-election to another Pakatan party, the PKR.

That by-election saw the alliance’s de facto leader – and now Parliamentary Opposition Leader – Anwar Ibrahim, returning to the House after a 10-year absence.

Where money politics failed

The heavy deployment of state machinery in the by-election campaign and the massive mainstream media campaign which provided lop-sided coverage in favour of the BN could not stem the tide.

Opposition activists, independent journalists and bloggers provided a counterweight, repeatedly highlighting over the Internet cases of money politics and the use of government allocations to influence voters.

kuala terengganu by election polling day 170109It was the third time in 10 months that money politics had failed to halt the opposition’s momentum. “The great thing about the results of the Kuala Terengganu by-election is that the old politics of the Barisan Nasional will no longer work,” says P Ramakrishnan, president of the social reform group, Aliran.

”The past winning formula – money, media and machinery – could not woo the voters to throw in their support for the BN,” Ramakrishnan said.

As if the burden of taking over the premiership is not heavy enough, Najib, the son of Malaysia’s second premier, Abdul Razak, also holds the key finance portfolio.

He faces a huge challenge as Malaysia’s export-oriented economy slows in tandem with the global slowdown.

Weakening global demand for semiconductors and electronic products and a slump in petroleum and palm oil prices will make this a difficult year with more job losses expected.

Najib himself has been implicated in the murder of a Mongolian woman – though he has vehemently denied any links to the case – for which two special forces operatives are on trial. Meanwhile, top UMNO leaders recognise that the party will have to reinvent or reform itself if it wants to check its slide and remain in power after the next general election.

Najib has asked BN leaders to move out of their comfort zones and build closer rapport with the people or be punished at the next general election.
kuala terengganu by election najib visit razali house 140109 01
He said that development projects must be based on the needs of the people – an admission of sorts that many projects had not been people-oriented in the past.

”The BN government cannot afford a disconnection between the people’s aspirations and the government’s direction,” he was reported as saying.

But the big question now is whether, after five decades of holding power, UMNO is capable of instituting such reforms given that corruption and vote-buying are so pervasive and a system of patronage is deeply entrenched.

UMNO needs reinvention, not rebranding

UMNO vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin said Najib would have to perform “political surgery”. ”The people want radical improvements after what happened in the last election,” he was reported as saying. ”We must be able to do something that would attract the public.” He said the party had to be reinvented and not just re-branded.

But it’s not just UMNO that needs to be reformed. The credibility of key democratic institutions has suffered under BN rule, as critics believe their independence has been compromised to ensure that the BN retains its grip on power.

Reforms to the judiciary, law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies and the Election Commission are deemed essential in restoring the eroding credibility of the BN government.

Outgoing premier Abdullah is determined to push through legal reforms to restore the credibility of some of these institutions. Already he has tabled two bills in Parliament – the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Bill and the Judicial Appointments Bill.

A third on the police force and other enforcement agencies completes his agenda – though he has promised to see through the implementation even after leaving office in March.

But after failing to push through such reforms at the height of his popularity following a landslide general election win in 2004, it remains to be seen whether the BN, particularly a wounded, divided UMNO, has the political will to now ensure meaningful reforms.

UMNO might not have the stomach to do so, especially when such reforms could bring to a premature end the careers of many party functionaries and even loosen the BN’s stranglehold on power.

”This by-election leaves the BN having to some deep soul-searching,” says Chang, the opposition activist.

”I think they need to look outwards and get outsiders to provide some frank views as the people in the BN seem to be in a state of perpetual denial.”

The next electoral tests will come in the form of possible by-elections and elections to the state assembly of Sarawak, another resource-rich state considered a stronghold of the ruling coalition.

Faced with a resurgent opposition alliance, Najib will have to battle hard to restore his – and the ruling coalition’s – battered fortunes.


Leadership Change in PKR Penang

Fairus dropped as PKR Penang deputy chief
Jimadie Shah Othman | January 23, 2009

In a startling development, Penang Deputy Chief Minister (I) Mohd Fairus Khairuddin has been dropped as the state PKR deputy chairperson following a reshuffle. The decision has added fuel to the already raging speculation that the 32-year-old politician could be on his way out.
mohammad fairus penang deputy cm deny resign 160708 01

Also dropped was another deputy chairperson, Bukit Tambun state assemblyperson Law Choo Kiang.

Mohd Fairus has been replaced by Dr Mansor Othman while Law’s position fell to Machang Bubuk state assemblyperson Tan Hock Leong. However, the deputy chief minister remains as an ordinary PKR state liaison committee member.

Meanwhile, Zahrain Mohamed Hashim and S Raveentharan retained their positions as PKR state chief and deputy chairperson respectively.

As for the state PKR Youth chief post, it was filled by Balik Pulau MP Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff.

Back to Hornbill Politics in Sarawak

Landmines in Sarawak, Part 1
Sim Kwang Yang | January 22, 2009

Being severed from the Malayan Peninsula by a vast expanse of water, the political sky over the fair land of Sarawak has very different hues and colours. Sometimes, the political quirks and kinks can seem incomprehensible to politicians and people from outside the state.

Part of the reason for this discrepancy is that the collective imagination of Sarawakians is not shaped by the national media entirely, but also by the local media in Sarawak in all forms, including and especially the radio which is often the only source of information about the outside world in much of the Sarawak rural heartland.

All the newspapers in various languages are pro-BN government of course. They are all owned by companies and business interests that depend on the state government for survival. The BN control over the formation of public opinions is water-tight.

In this way, the Sarawak BN is able to monopolise the content and the style of political discourse throughout the entire state. Alternative or dissident voices can hardly ever find the space to articulate their views. With telephone access limited to the towns and some semi-urban areas, the power of the Internet has yet to establish a foothold.

In contrast, the flow of information from the state government and its leaders to the people even in the most remote village communities is entrenched by a tightly controlled system of government administration, encompassing the police, the Residents, the district officers, the information officers, and the agriculture officers.

In the rural areas, this firewall of information control does mean that the political frame of reference of the voters is designed by the BN leaders to legitimate their position as patrons, with the villagers being brainwashed into the dependence syndrome. The carrot must be reinforced with the stick, so fear of losing this patronage is instilled into their minds over the past decades.

Quality of Political Narratives

In the towns, the voters are likely to be much better informed. Now they also enjoy the convenience of the Internet. Being financially independent and expecting development as a right, many urban voters in Sarawak are less vulnerable to the carrot and the stick. That explains partly why the DAP and the PKR were able to win seats in the 2006 Sarawak election. Many Chinese voters in smaller towns still tend to be blinded by the awesome BN propaganda machine.

One casualty of this closure of the public space in Sarawak is the questionable quality of political narratives in Sarawak.

In 1978, I suffered reverse cultural shock when I returned from a first world country like Canada to a third world territory like Sarawak. The intellectual, cultural, and political backwardness of Sarawakians hit me in my face like a train.

When I helped to pioneer the formation of the DAP Kuching Branch that year, it was the first time that the opposition party was making a serious entry into Sarawak state politics. Sarawakians knew next to nothing about this political party, though they had been a brand name party in West Malaysia since 1967.

sarawak state seat 2006 breakdown 011208Immediately, my main opponents in the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) branded the DAP as a Peninsular party, and therefore “foreign” and “alien”, neither acceptable nor relevant to the political life in Sarawak. I, together with other DAP local leaders, were portrayed as merely “treacherous running dogs” for Orang Malaya, a term tinged with undisguised contempt for all things that originated from West Malaysia.

This twisted piece of anaemic logic worked in favour of Supp in my nearly 20 year involvement in active politics. I could win in the Kuching parliamentary constituency three consecutive times, but my many attempts to win a state seat failed. I believe this silly piece of garbage argument was finally laid to rest in the 2006 general election, almost 30 years after the appearance of the DAP on the shores of Sarawak!

This twisted logic of branding the DAP has a West Malaysian worked for the good part of three decades because of the BN’s failure in regional integration through equitable socio-economic development. For 45 years after independence, the lived experience of Sarawakians is one of post-colonial exploitation by Kuala Lumpur.

Widespread Discontent

While the rich natural resources like oil and gas in Sarawak has been largely sucked into the national coffer, to be used as a cash cow by the federal government for the benefits of non-Sarawakians, all socio-economic indicators in Sarawak are many decades behind richer states like Selangor and Johore. There has been next to nothing for Sarawak’s industrial and manufacturing sectors.

This widespread of discontent among Sarawakians of all races has been projected onto the social and ethnic level as well. Sarawakians’ mistrust of anything to do with West Malaysians borders on the xenophobic.

There are quite a few large army camps in and around Kuching City. The soldiers from these camps are almost exclusively Malays from West Malaysia. Their relationship with the Sarawak Malays has sometimes been strained, because of some soldiers’ unsatisfactory relationship with Sarawak Malay ladies. Once, in the late 60s, this strain erupted into a public fight near the renowned Kuching open air market. Such brief altercations have still been reported until today.

sarawak diverse population percentage breakdown of race 160106The Sarawak Malays have a name for these soldiers: lipih, which in the local Malay dialect means “cockroach”! My Malay friends in Kuching tell me they have more friends among the local Chinese and Dayaks than with Orang Malaya.

The Sarawak Malays do speak a kind of Malay dialect which would sound like a foreign language to a Malay first time visitor from West Malaysia. The tone and the vocabulary are vastly different from the West Malaysian Malay dialects and the official Bahasa Malaysia.

Without doing research, I cannot ascertain the lineage of the Sarawak Malays. But their approach to religion is also unique.

Sarawak Malays are deeply devoted Muslims too. But they have been spared the kind of religious radicalisation that has emerged in West Malaysia since the 1970s. That is why numerous attempts by PAS to establish a bridgehead in Sarawak have not yielded any success. By and large, the Sarawak Malay/Melanau Muslims are far more tolerant in matters of religious freedom than their Peninsular counterparts.

A similar trend of alienation also exists among the Sarawak Chinese. Generally, they have a low opinion of West Malaysian Chinese, calling them “Sai Bay Kia”, (small people from the west).

They may all be Chinese, but they speak so differently. My impression is that the Sarawak Chinese find their visitors from across the South China Sea too aggressive, too “Kia Su”, and too cold. As for me, I certainly have many more friends of all races in Sarawak than those in West Malaysia, despite my long residence in the Klang Valley.

I hear that this strange sense of self-identity exists in the university campuses located in West Malaysia. While students there will flock together as Indians, Malays, and Chinese, Sarawakian and Sabahan students tend to socialise as Anak Sarawak or Anak Sabah.

In the political consciousness of Sarawakians, they are probably Sarawakians first, and Malaysians second. I still read on the Internet postings on Sarawak blog sites reviving the call “Sarawak for Sarawakians”, the battle cry of the Sarawak National Party (Snap) in the early 1970s, when they were vanquished to the political wilderness.

Therefore, this anti-West sentiment was successfully manipulated by the Supp against the DAP in Sarawak throughout the 1980s and 1990s. By now, it has lost the magic of its empty logic.

There are two good reasons why I wish to revisit this old haunt for me.

PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim has announced the grand intention of the Pakatan Rakyat to launch a full-scale offensive to take power in Sarawak in the next state election there.

Already, there are many postings by supposedly Dayak netizens on the sites of Sarawak bloggers calling PKR a “West Malaysian party”. They could be genuinely misinformed Sarawakians, but then they could be agents provocateurs preparing the ground for BN parties. It is time I examine again why such a perception is faulty.

Secondly, my analysis here may help PKR leaders and grassroots workers understand the unique social and ethnic milieu in Sarawak, so that when they go to campaign in Sarawak, they would not shoot themselves on their foot, or land on landmines planted by the local BN.

To be continued next week…
SIM KWANG YANG was MP for Bandar Kuching from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at

Pensiangan, Sabah: The Next Battleground

Sabah BN squabbles over Pensiangan seat
Joe Fernandez | January 21, 2009

The fall of the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat has widened the rift in Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) over its choice of candidate, should a by-election be held for the Pensiangan parliamentary seat.

Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) head Joseph Kurup, who had the seat taken away last September by an Election Court, has come out hammer and tongs against Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s claim to the seat, accusing him of sabotaging the election machinery.

“Voters in Pensiangan are well-prepared for a possible by-election. They already know for whom to cast their votes. The election machinery is in place and intact,” said Kurup.

“As much as I wouldn’t like to say anything, I am compelled to do so in response to Pairin’s interference [...] by raising the question of the candidate. His remarks will weaken, to an extent, our election machinery. His ill-conceived remarks are definitely not in the BN spirit.”

Kurup, who was once a senior leader in Pairin’s Parti Bersatu Sabah, questioned the latter’s “credibility to assess the suitability of the candidate for Pensiangan”.

He claimed that Pairin, when Sabah chief minister, had “made no effort to take the rural people out of poverty during his administration and just focused on making sure the kayu balak (timber) disappeared as fast as possible”.

Pairin had said the selection of candidate for Peniangan “should not be automatic”.

“It is normal for BN to give the seat back to the relevant component party. But given the Kuala Terengganu by-election result, the choice of candidate is also important. The opposition could stir up issues and provoke the people against the BN,” he said.

Pairin said he was not against PBRS being allowed to re-contest Pensiangan, but was ambivalent as to whether Kurup should be the candidate. He warned that victory would be more difficult to achieve without all BN component parties unanimously endorsing the candidate.

Asked whether he meant whether Kurup should not be the BN candidate, he replied: “I am not saying that, but the candidate is very important.”

Appeal hearing next month

Senior PBS leaders, who requested anonymity, clarified in Pairin’s defence that Kurup has not been endorsed as the candidate by the BN and “should not take it for granted that he will be the best candidate”.

“In fact, having won before under rather dubious circumstances and having lost in the Election Court, it’s best that he should not consider himself to be in the running for the seat in the event of a by-election,” said one senior leader.

“He should either shortlist other PBRS candidates for BN’s consideration or we can lend him a suitable candidate.”

Former Pensiangan MP Bernard Marmat, who recently quit PBRS and joined PBS, is reportedly eyeing the seat in the event of a by-election.

The idea of a BN component party ‘lending’ a candidate to another component party has not been practised in Sabah but is rampant in neighbouring Sarawak, where Parti Rakyat Sarawak has complained that many of its seats had been ‘pinched’ over the years by other BN component parties.

dr jeffrey kitinganSabah People’s Progressive Party and PKR – in which Jeffrey Gimpoi Kitingan (left) is a senior leader – are eyeing the seat as well.

However, the independent Sapp may yet give way “on moral grounds” to opposition PKR whose candidate, Danny Anthony Andipai, had successfully disputed the election results in court.

The appeal against the ruling will reportedly be heard early next month, although the court can delay the verdict for six months from the time the appeal is filed.

Once the court delivers its verdict, a by-election must be called within 60 days. However, this is unlikely to happen in the March-April period because Umno faces polls and a transition in leadership.