There goes $100b down the drain…

April 30,2010

By Leslie Lau

Executive Editor of  The Malaysian Insider

Abdullah allegedly gave up the oil rights to resolve the Limbang dispute with Brunei.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is alleged to have allowed Malaysia to sign away up to RM320 billion in potential oil earnings, in return for Brunei dropping its claim over Limbang in Sarawak.

Both former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang demanded an explanation today from the country’s previous PM, after news reports emerged last week suggesting Malaysia had signed away its oil rights.

Murphy Oil, which had entered a production-sharing contract with national oil company, Petronas, for Block L and Block M offshore of Limbang, announced last week that it was ceasing operations because “it was no longer part of Malaysia.”

“It would seem that the loss of a huge oil producing area that had apparently belonged to Malaysia is okay,” said Dr Mahathir today in a posting on his blog.

Separately, Lim said Abdullah should explain whether he had indeed signed off US$100 billion (RM320 billion) worth of oil rights to resolve Brunei’s claims to Limbang a month before he stepped down as prime minister in March last year and if so, why.

In the waning weeks of his term as PM, Abdullah had visited Brunei for talks with Bandar Seri Begawan officials.

Following the trip he announced that Brunei would no longer continue with its claim on Limbang, the stretch of  land in Sarawak which partly splits Brunei in two.Abdullah, however, did not divulge details of the deal with Brunei.

Brunei also reportedly said later it had not dropped its claims on Limbang. “Block L and Block M had been claimed by Malaysia based on historical facts. Accordingly, PETRONAS entered into a production-sharing contract with Murphy Oil to start drilling to produce oil. It is estimated that the reserves amounted to almost one billion barrels.

“Abdullah Badawi negotiated with the Sultan (of Brunei) to get back Limbang in Sarawak. In return he agreed to surrender the two blocks to Brunei. No Petronas representatives were present, only foreign office staff and the foreign affairs adviser to the PM,” said Dr Mahathir, who had handpicked Abdullah to be his successor but eventually became his biggest nemesis.

Dr Mahathir questioned why Abdullah was allowed to proceed with the Brunei deal. The former prime minister (N0.4)

Dr Mahathir further claimed that it was now clear that the two exploration blocks were no longer a part of Malaysia.  The former PM did not cite the sources for his information about the meeting.He also did not provide justification for his claim that potential earnings could amount to RM320 billion.

“Abdullah has caused Malaysia to lose at least US100 billion dollars (about RM320 billion) of Malaysia’s oil in this agreement.

“Can Wisma Putra please explain why it did not stop Abdullah?” queried Dr Mahathir.

The DAP’s Lim also said it was now up to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to explain the true situation.

He said Najib must clarify whether Abdullah had signed off RM320 billion worth of oil rights to resolve Brunei’s claims to Limbang.

He said the PM should also explain the reports that Brunei’s claims to Limbang remains unaffected despite Malaysia losing these two blocks of offshore oil areas.

The Ipoh Timur MP then called on Najib to spell out “why the Abdullah Cabinet at the time of which he was Deputy Prime Minister had agreed to such unilateral and arbitrary sell-out of the country’s sovereign rights.”

Lessons from Defeat in Hulu Selangor

April 30, 2010

Defeat in Hulu Selangor:  Lessons for Pakatan Rakyat (Part 3)

by Dr. Bridget Welsh*

Nationally people are wondering why a widely-respected candidate such as Zaid Ibrahim lost the Hulu Selangor by-election to a MIC unknown. Yesterday, I described part of the story – the factors shaping the BN. Below I lay out the issues that undermined Pakatan Rakyat, drawing again from the campaign messaging, logistics and political dynamics.

Due to the size of the constituency and national political firepower they faced, this election tested Pakatan like never before. It showcases some deep weaknesses within the opposition that have to be addressed in order for Pakatan to win national power.

Ultimately, the real test will be whether Pakatan learns the lessons of strengthening cooperation and adapting to the new political environment. The fact of the matter is that they held their own, but underperformed. Underperformance is something that the opposition cannot afford to do if it seeks to take over Putrajaya.

On the back foot

From the beginning of the Hulu Selangor campaign, Pakatan was on the defensive. They did not set the tone of the campaign, having to respond to attacks on Zaid’s link to drinking and gambling, the Selangor Pakatan government and more.

NONEMuch of campaign, including the visit by PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat in the last days of the campaign was tied to addressing the attacks on morality waged on PKR leaders. Rarely does a defensive posture engender a positive outcome.

This was exacerbated by a slow start to the campaign. Of the three component parties in Pakatan, PKR has the weakest machinery in Hulu Selangor. It took a few days for the party to sort out a productive working relationship on the ground internally and with the component parties in the opposition coalition.

Part of this had to do with resolving the issues of multiple sovereignty – the role of the state government and the role of the parties. The slow start was further enhanced by long-standing personality differences in style and outlook within Pakatan, and the opposition had to work to address these differences.

The election showed that the parties can work together effectively as they gained ground towards the latter part of the campaign. The DAP and PAS delivered effectively and all the parties worked well together – eventually. In a tight contest, however, every day counts.

Pakatan was slow off the mark and was unable to fully bridge the gap as it gained speed towards the finish line.

Stale and splintered messaging

Listening to the ceramah and observing the campaign paraphernalia, Pakatan seems locked in a time warp. The posters followed the same model of 2008, with the slogan “Hope for Malaysia”. The messages are two years old and resonated with the party faithful, not the swing voters.

Many voters asked what was new. The fact is that as Pakatan is in power in Selangor, the call for change or even reform has less political traction. In government, it is not adequate to use an anti-incumbent campaign. The cry of “reformasi” only served to strengthen the party faithful, not to secure new voters that Pakatan needed to assure a win.

hulu selangor by-election voting day 250410 pkr posterThe campaign also lacked a central theme. While some campaigners focused on contemporary issues such as the rival candidate, P Kamalanathan, others addressed concerns with Apco and even Altantuya Shaariibuu – the issue that was prominent in the Permatang Pauh by-election in August 2008.

The messages were all over the place, and, as such, it was not clear exactly what Pakatan stood for. Multi-ethnic inclusion? Reform? Anti-UMNO? New leadership? The voters lacked an anchor to identify with. For some voters, particular messages did connect, such as the poster of Teoh Beng Hock, which was particularly present in the Chinese areas. For others, it was confusing and uninspiring.

This was reinforced by the fact that the opposition was hampered in getting its message out. In Hulu Selangor, the alternative media had limited impact, particularly in Ulu Bernam. The challenge of communication exacerbated the problems of messaging as Pakatan was disadvantaged in its ability to connect with the voters.

The state newspaper, Selangorkini – with only a few thousand copies – was a drop in the bucket to reach this large constituency. Pakatan nationally has the disadvantage due to its lack of access to traditional media, and in this type of constituency – semi-rural and diverse – this disadvantage is particularly acute.

More broadly, this speaks to a real need to improve how Pakatan communicates with the public.

Burden of wearing two hats

Even more challenging is the dual roles that Pakatan has – in government and opposition. It is very difficult to wear two hats politically, especially when the roles are the exact opposite of each other.

This election provided the first real opportunity for Pakatan to showcase its record at the state level and they failed this test. One main reason involves the failure to develop new messages for the new context and move beyond March 2008. Pakatan has yet to develop a new identity that is tied to its role in state governments post-March 2008. No one person can be blamed for this since it is a matter for the entire leadership of Pakatan.

Even more difficult is showcasing the successes of the state government in a constituency where the state government has made minimal impact. Hulu Selangor was a neglected constituency. This has to do with the fact that all three representatives for the state are in BN. Pakatan did not effectively engage this area before the election, especially in the Felda areas.

This was driven home as the campaign progressed and state politicians learned firsthand that many did not even know that Pakatan was in government. Some voters lived in a ‘BN bubble’. This illustrated serious shortcomings on the part of the state government.

There were exceptions such as Selangor excos Elizabeth Wong’s work in the Orang Asli areas or Ean Yong Hian Wah’s work in the Chinese new villages, which contributed to gains for PKR in these areas, but overall, particularly in Malay areas, the state government had limited engagement and deliverables that it could showcase effectively.

hulu selangor by-election 100410 pakatan dinner ulu yam baru khalid 02While Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim was highly popular and respected, the actions of the government as a whole did not come across to the key voters.

This was compounded by the fact that many problems in this constituency were associated with land. Traditionally land is a state matter, but on the ground it was difficult to resolve these issues since the jurisdiction of issues was not so clear cut.

Many problems had occurred in the previous BN state government – housing scams, land speculations, unfair land allocations, limited land rights, shoddy development – to name but a few. They remain unresolved and require the cooperation of the private sector, federal government and state government.

Sadly, the failure of these actors to work together to resolve issues for Selangor has hurt development in the state, and in the semi-rural parts of the state in particular. In the campaign, blame was cast largely on the new Pakatan state government unfairly to address these problems.

Come next election, Pakatan will have to address the concerns over land effectively in order to secure votes, and this will require working more effectively to accommodate the different actors involved. This only points to the serious work ahead that Pakatan needs to address as a state government to win votes.

Party of defectors, not leaders

Convincing voters that it can govern effectively is vital for the opposition’s future. This starts with the leadership of the opposition. Nationally, Pakatan has to come to terms that the attacks on Anwar Ibrahim have had their impact.

The opposition leader does not have the same level of popularity of 2008. In part, this was the product of his loss of credibility over the September 16 Affair that lingers in the minds of voters. In part, this has to do with questions associated with the Sodomy II trial, although the majority of the electorate see this as a political ploy.

NONEIt nevertheless has cast a shadow over the future direction of the leadership of Pakatan. Voters want to be assured that the coalition they vote for has clear leadership and direction.

The major issue in this campaign was the impact of the defections. People supposedly loyal to Anwar, such at Hulu Selangor’s Dr Halili Rahmat, people who were touted by Anwar to be important PKR leaders and personal friends openly joined the other side. This raises questions about Anwar’s leadership that have to be addressed in order to win the confidence of the electorate.

PKR is becoming perceived as the party of defectors, not leaders. The defections also affected campaigning as they spilled over into weakening the local machinery resulting in the party relying heavily on outsiders to run the campaign.

Are the rats leaving a sinking ship? Or is the party finding out who is willing to commit to real reforms in government and stick with the fight? While these may be true, the impact of the defections was especially damaging in Malay areas, and had broader resonance.

Pakatan needs own identity

More fundamentally, Pakatan needs to come up with a programme for the future in government. Malaysian voters are pragmatic and want direction on the part of their leaders. Nationally, Prime Minister Najib Razak has adopted economic reform as his own platform. He has usurped the position as the reformer, at least symbolically.

Pakatan has yet to showcase a new set of ideas to address the current challenges. It has yet to engage with how the Najib leadership in BN has evolved and is evolving. Personal attacks on Najib are not adequate to win votes. They need a clear programme and direction, based on being in government at the state level and as a potential government nationally. It is no longer enough to be different from BN. Pakatan needs its own identity that voters can connect to.

Pakatan may have lost in Hulu Selangor. The bigger challenge is to make sure that it has not lost its direction. The by-election showed that the opposition is learning – it gained ground towards the end – but faces challenges in communication, leadership and identity.

If it wants to win power nationally, it has to take bold steps to engage the electorate and current political conditions. To avoid getting lost and further losses, Pakatan has to avoid internal blame and recognised that voters want change to be more than symbolic.

* DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at

An Opinion: Want to save Capitalism?

April 30, 2010

Want to save capitalism?

by E J Dionne Jr (April 29, 2010)

Maybe the next time someone calls Barack Obama a socialist, the president shouldn’t issue a denial. He might instead urge his accuser to read the hearing transcript of this week’s congressional testimony from the Goldman Sachs guys in their beautiful suits.

Capitalism has not taken a hit like this since Mr. Potter made his appearance as the evil banker in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” No leftist polemicist could come up with as damning a description of contemporary capitalism as the contents of an e-mail that Goldman’s Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre sent to his girlfriend.

“Well,” he wrote, “what if we created a ‘thing,’ which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?”

Perhaps Fab once read the Karl Marx who wrote: “The more abstract money is, the less natural its relationship to other commodities.

“If money is an abstraction, the investment industry’s creative inventions are abstractions of abstractions of abstractions. Banks no longer just give people loans to buy houses. Now Wall Street’s geniuses — and they are ingenious — trade bizarre financial products in which the original loan is packaged with thousands of others and buried under piles of equations and economic gibberish.

Goldman may face charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission, but it’s the entirety of our deregulated financial system that’s on trial. In this new order, the inventiveness of our entrepreneurs goes not only into creating products that enhance our lives (from refrigerators to laptops to iPods) but also into fashioning “absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical” financial products whose main function is to enrich a very small number of well-placed people.

The ever-more-complex financial instruments are defended on the grounds that they make life better for everybody. Tourre offered this justification in another of his revealing e-mails: “Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this, the real purpose of my job is to make capital markets more efficient and ultimately provide the U.S. consumer with more efficient ways to leverage and finance himself, so there is a humble, noble and ethical reason for my job.”

Then he added: “amazing how good I am in convincing myself !!!”

Tourre’s unconventionally punctuated observations go to the heart of the debate we need to have: How many of the arguments offered on behalf of these exotic transactions are nothing more than rationalizations for the capacity they give a few investment bankers to get very, very rich?

Does it make sense to have investment houses playing the role of “market makers,” peddling financial junk with one hand that they then bet against with the other? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is perfectly legal. The real question is: Why should it be?

I’m prepared to believe that some of these financial innovations do real work for the real economy. Yes, it’s good that farmers can use the futures markets to lock in prices, and the secondary mortgage markets may well free up capital. But Wall Street has gone way beyond the original purposes of such devices and created a world unto itself in which the gains are reserved for privileged insiders and the losses are borne by everybody else.

At one point during the hearings, Sen. Carl Levin played the Jimmy Stewart good-banker role from “It’s a Wonderful Life” by describing capitalism as it’s supposed to be. Levin noted that Wall Street “has been seen as an engine of growth, betting on America’s successes and not its failures.”

Well, that’s what Wall Street proclaims in its advertisements for itself. But when defending themselves against legal charges, Wall Streeters retreat to honesty by saying that everybody knows they are really there to make money and that it’s naive to hold them accountable for the social impact of what they do.

It is, indeed, naive to expect Wall Street to act as charitably as the Salvation Army, and you have to respect Fabulous Fab’s brutal candor about this. Which brings us back to socialism.

Marx’s predictions about the inevitable collapse of capitalism have been wrong so far because the system has worked reasonably well, thanks to the rules and redistributive programs established after the Great Depression.

The lesson is that the surest way to save capitalism is to regulate it in the public interest. The surest way to create socialists is for everyone to experience the economic consequences of counting only on the goodness in the hearts of Mr. Potter and Fabrice Tourre.

The PKR blame game is on

April 29, 2010

Post Hulu Selangor : The Blame Game in PKR is on

by Regina Lee

With nearly all bases covered in the post-mortem of the Hulu Selangor by-election, new allegations of internal dissent and discord have surfaced in defeated PKR.

While PAS and DAP could boast of well-oiled machinery, often borrowing experiences of party stalwarts who have seen more elections up close and personal even before many of the party workers were born, PKR is still considered a baby in politics.

NONEAnd despite Opposition leader and Ketua Umum Anwar Ibrahim’s (left) iron grip on the party, and Pakatan Rakyat for that matter, there was dissent and disharmony visible.

In the run-up to the Hulu Selangor by-election, there were complaints that the PKR machinery was split into three camps: the party machinery under MB Khalid Ibrahim, the party workers mainly aligned to vice-president Azmin Ali and the candidate himself Zaid Ibrahim.

And in wake of the defeat, supporters from each sides are pointing fingers, accusing each other of being weak links.

Malaysiakini understands that many have been unhappy with Khalid’s leadership even though he was handpicked by Anwar himself to head the entire machinery for the by-election.

“He was inexperienced and inefficient. He was good at logistics, but he did not know much about anything else. Elections are not just about getting people to set up ceramah tents,” said a party source.

Khalid Ibrahim did nothing in Hulu Selangor

The source also complained that Khalid was tight with the purse strings and that he would give unrealistically low sums to run the whole eight days of campaigning.

NONEA top PKR leader also said for the next election in Selangor, Khalid (right) would no longer be heading the team. “He is just too busy as MB. A lot of people could get away with telling him that they had done something when they had not,” said the PKR leader.

Klang MP from DAP Charles Santiago, who was tasked with canvassing the Indian votes, also said that there was just too much responsibility to be an MB and manage the party election machinery.

“There must be a separation of operations. Usually, the nerve centre of any by-election has to come from outside the circle,” he said.

The election machinery head on BN’s side was, incidentally, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Member of PKR’s political bureau S Manikavasagam, also widely known be a vocal critic of the MB, said that while he did not want to blame anyone, it was clear that he was unhappy with Khalid.

“The machinery did not start work until the by-election was announced. It should have been done the moment (late MP Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad) became very ill. Khalid said that he was willing to work 24 hours a day, but what exactly was he doing?”

Zaid headed out on his own

A news portal recently reported that Zaid, fed up with the inefficiency of the PKR machinery, headed out on his own and formed his own team to oversee the campaigning operations.

NONEParty observers have noted that Zaid (left) went off and decided his own schedules and generally did not stick to the plan that the machinery has put in place for him.

“It looks like he doesn’t trust the party workers. His people didn’t even attend the coordination meetings.”

And at the same time, the party workers aligned to Azmin, who incidentally have had famous spats with Zaid in the past, said that Zaid did not know how to campaign.

“When Zaid visited certain areas, he didn’t even get down from the car. It even took a lot of effort just to get him to smile and shake hands with the locals,” said one of them.

It is also fairly obvious that Zaid had his own agenda on his mind and there were times when the party machinery would not know his schedule or his whereabouts.

Indeed reporters covering the by-election had to check with the party machinery and Khalid’s team for an ‘official’ itinerary, and also for Zaid’s own schedule.

Azmin is MIA

It was also curious that Azmin, who had been previously speculated to be miffed that he did not get the job to helm the campaign, was noticeably missing. But it is understandable that as chief whip, he had to hold fort at parliamentary sittings which coincided with the campaigning dates. And so the skilled orator hardly took to the stage at the ceramah.

pkr national congress 301108 azmin aliWhile Azmin (right) has repeatedly stressed that there is no rift between himself and Zaid, as well as Khalid, there was not much sign of him between nomination day until the final leg of campaigning.

“In previous elections, Azmin gave 100 percent, but in this election, he didn’t. Frankly I don’t know why, maybe he was afraid Zaid might take over,” said Manikavasagam while refusing to elaborate further.

However, many of the parties, including PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh were quick to quell rumours of disunity in the ranks.

“The allegations are baseless. I don’t deny that we have our own weaknesses, but all the leaders worked very hard,” she said.

Arrogance in the office

While the PKR machinery may need to take a step back and take a further look at the machinery to improve it, much will still have to be done to keep the party in touch with the people.

Santiago also said that apart from the lack of cohesion in the machinery especially at the grassroots level, many of the MPs and assemblymen from the various folds of Pakatan Rakyat had “airs”.

“Some of the YBs think that they need an invitation to go help out with the campaigning. They would rather not go from house-to-house but prefer the ceramah circuit instead. At every night, there are five to six speakers when time is better used to meet the voters on a personal basis,” he said.

Manikavasagam also quipped: “If all the Excos think that they are federal ministers, we are finished”.

Ahead of May 6 British Election: The Economist endorses the Conservatives

April 29, 2010

The Economist endorses David Cameron and the Conservatives

The influential Economist magazine endorsed Britain’s main opposition Conservatives today, giving them a boost ahead of next week’s parliamentary election.

The magazine switched its support from centre-left Labour for the May 6 election because it said the Conservatives seemed the most committed to reducing the size of the public sector.

“Government now accounts for over half the economy, rising to 70 per cent in Northern Ireland. For Britain to thrive, this liberty-destroying Leviathan has to be tackled,” the weekly magazine wrote in an editorial.

“The Conservatives, for all their shortcomings, are keenest to do that; and that is the main reason why we would cast our vote for them.”

The Economist praised Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s response to the global credit crisis, but tempered this by criticising him for pouring money into public services during his decade as finance minister until 2007.

It concluded that Labour, in power since 1997 when Tony Blair won the first of three successive victories, had run out of steam.

“Above all, the government is tired. Mired in infighting and scandal, just as the Tories were in 1997, New Labour has run its course,” it said.

The Economist has a circulation of close to 200,000 in Britain and 1.4 million worldwide. It is widely read by people in financial services and the higher echelons of business. Opinion polls show the centre-right Conservatives or Tories leading the election race, but suggest they may not have enough support to command an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament.

A strong showing by the centrist Liberal Democrats, long the third party in British politics, has seen them overtake Labour in some polls and complicated the electoral arithmetic. Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system, not one based on proportional representation.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has shone in televised debates, but the Economist said the party’s policies were less appealing.

“To the extent that elections are holidays from normal politics, Mr Clegg has been a delightful holiday romance for many Britons; but this newspaper does not fancy moving in with him for the next five years,” it said.— Reuters

Najib not quite the conqueror of Hulu Selangor, says Dr. Welsh

April 29, 2010

Najib not quite the conqueror of Hulu Selangor (Part 2)

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

Najib Razak and the BN won bragging rights in Hulu Selangor. A win is a win. The BN had the advantage up-front with its machinery and resources for this large semi-rural constituency and it used these effectively.

To date, the focus has been on BN’s use of financial incentives to woo voters. This has been a long honed practice, especially in the rural areas. It is nothing new, and part of any by-election. To understand the dynamics on the ground, one has to look further.

NONETo attribute Najib’s victory on money politics obscures important transformations taking place within the BN. The use of ethnic politics and new messaging underscored the BN’s campaign.

The BN’s efforts may have helped secure a win, but the long term points worryingly to further political challenges.

Comparatively, this election mattered more for the BN, especially Najib. Najib has staked his political future on a victory. Since he assumed office in April 2009, Najib has lacked his own political mandate. Hulu Selangor, with the slim 2008 majority of only 198 votes, gave him an opportunity to show both the public and, even more important, his own party that he could win.

It is thus not surprising that the dominant message in the BN campaign was focused on him, from the posters to the unprecedented prominent role he played in the campaign. The prominence of his concept 1Malaysia reinforced the Najib connection.

To date, Najib has staked his future on improving the economy. Najib needs political room to implement difficult policy decisions that go to the core of the future of the country – economic reforms. He needs to cut the use of subsidies, improve state revenues, remove ethnic-based preferences (aka the NEP) and generate new sources of growth.

Without economic reforms, the country faces serious obstacles in maintaining its competitiveness. These reforms will not be easy to carry out. He will need public support. Sadly, the size of the victory does not give Najib adequate political space for hard economic decisions.

Focus on Najib’s personality

Najib’s personal battle involved more than the public and his policy measures. Listening to Najib on the campaign trail, it was clear that the election was centred on damaging his political enemy – Anwar Ibrahim.

With innuendos such as “main belakang” and references to how US President Barack Obama personally supports him, Najib used the opportunity to continue the battle for national leadership that is playing out in the courts and through censure motions in Parliament.

The BN’s use of personal attacks on Zaid Ibrahim is an extension of the series of attacks on members of PKR from Anwar downwards. Najib and the BN engaged in an all-out war against the opposition because the increasing power of the opposition has become personal to them, a challenge to their positions and wealth.

The prime minister’s focus on personality rather than his deliverables suggested an element of insecurity on Najib’s part. One of the reasons for this insecurity involves increasing pressure from within UMNO itself.

hulu selangor by-election voting day 250410 muhyiddinDeputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin took the opportunity to cast a shadow on Najib’s victory by contrasting the target of 6,000 with the slim victory of 1,725.

In fact, Muhyiddin is not far off from traditional patterns of BN – largely UMNO – support in this seat. By showing that Najib did not make this target, he has maintained the pressure from inside Umno on Najib to meet the needs of the party and address many of the concerns of the ultra-Malay chauvinist agenda.

Najib faces a real challenge of securing the support for economic policies and simultaneously building security for his party members who are concerned with their own positions Najib’s personal battleground – from Pakatan and Anwar to UMNO and Perkasa – was played out in Hulu Selangor, and it is long from over.

The intensity of the BN campaign reflected this high stakes involved. The BN went all out and it translated on the ground to hard work, zeal and pressure in local communities. Many in the Malay Felda areas of Ulu Bernam, for example, expressed fear of being ostracised for supporting the opposition. Many villagers were genuinely afraid of the implications of not voting for BN.

This was the product of the hard court press of the BN machinery, which was well-oiled from beginning of the campaign and much stronger in localities, especially in Batang Kali. The opposition lacked the same networks to exert pressure, and some Malay and Indian villagers wisely opted to follow along rather than challenge the local BN campaigners.

It is striking to see the low voter turnout in many Malay areas, as many stayed home in a quiet protest rather than oppose the BN machine. It was not a surprise that tensions were high in areas, with small fights on election day as a result of how the national intensity was translated on the ground in rural communities.

UMNO throws its weight

There was another unspoken weapon held over the heads in this campaign. It involved the component parties – MIC and MCA. They were called to deliver or face further encroachment in their power base by UMNO. Weakened and riddled by factionalism, both the MIC and MCA struggled to show that they had support among their respective traditional constituencies.

At stake was the future of seat allocations, ministerial positions and even more intense issues of their future in the BN as threats of bypassing these parties altogether were banded about, largely as rumours. They reinforced a real sense that UMNO was throwing its weight around.

This was most obvious for MIC, as the emasculation of the party through the candidate selection illustrated publicly the weaker role it plays in BN. The MIC branches – those that opted to campaign for P Kamalanathan – understood it was a matter of their survival not just in Hulu Selangor but nationally. UMNO was waiting in the wings to take over the seat.

hulu selangor by-election nomination 170410 samyvelluFor MIC, they may have won a respite for their seats and gained a potential settlement of the Maika scandal in the process.

The leadership of the party remains at question, as does the fundamental fact that the MIC has a long way to go to bringing Indians back into the BN fold.

One cannot ignore the fact that any gains have to be seen within the lens that this has been a MIC seat for over 10 years before 2008 and they won less than an estimated 60 percent of the Indian vote. This is not quite a national mandate for the MIC.

For the MCA, reeling from battles inside its own ranks, the cracks spilled over into the campaigning, with party president Chua Soi Lek’s late arrival on the ground in a constituency that had considerable popularity within the MCA for Ong Tee Keat. The MCA faced real pressures to show its relevancy and did not win recognition in this contest as Chinese voters overwhelmingly rejected their efforts.

hulu selangor by-election voting day 250410 mca chua soi lekChua said it best when he talked about the need to address issues nationally and move beyond its grassroots campaigning in villages to secure votes.

The reality is that some of its own party workers are not loyal to the party in the voting booth. MCA had less to lose short term in the contest, but in the longer term serious questions of relevancy and its ability to effectively represent Chinese Malaysians loom.

Both the MIC and MCA have to face the fact that the BN has changed. Umno is more in control than ever before. Non-Malay voices inside the BN coalition are apparently being ignored and this was evident in the campaign itself. Logistically, substantial BN cooperation – touted as the new campaign strategy – was minimal, as parties focused on their communities. Rarely did they work together, except with Najib’s visits.

In order for the non-Malay component parties to win back support they need to show that they are respected and appreciated by UMNO, that Malays in UMNO believe that Indian and Chinese leaders and members within BN should be genuinely included. This did not come across during the campaign, and is a even more serious challenge nationally as UMNO interferes in these parties as factional fights over leadership develop.

Ethnic politics within the BN itself was also a factor shaping the Hulu Selangor campaign. The MIC won the most as some Indians did come back to support the BN, while the MCA faces even more obstacles as a result of the further erosion of Chinese support.

BN rebrands itself

The BN campaign in Hulu Selangor was not just well-oiled and highly politically motivated, it was one of its best campaigns. It challenged the core of Pakatan Rakyat’s identity. First of all, the BN fought to undermine Pakatan’s call for “change”.

They focused on local sentiments of neglect and blamed the new Pakatan state government. While this did not fully resonate, the fact that the area was under multiple sovereignty undercut the ability of the opposition to rally voters along the same lines as they did in 2008.

The BN slogan “Mampu Berubah” (Ability to change) – illustrated the recognition that they have to change. While most saw this cynically, some voters acknowledged this new tone. Clearly the arrogance of UMNO before 2008 was not repeated in their Hulu Selangor campaign messages. Instead they used the slogan “Yes, We Can”.

NONEAnother key dimension that was challenged was the multi-ethnic composition of Pakatan. The BN used the 1Malaysia concept to portray that it was inclusive. While the campaigning on the ground was racial – vote for the Indian in Indian areas, voting for Pakatan is a vote for a Chinese government in Malay areas, voting for BN is a vote for Malay power – to paraphrase comments made at BN rallies and reports from voters – the 1Malaysia umbrella was multi-racial and Najib’s campaign efforts were as well.

The issue here is that the BN worked to try to win back the label of being the multiethnic representative that assured “stability”. Voters reported mixed acceptance of this message, but it clearly was more sophisticated and goes to the heart in challenging Pakatan which has aimed to portray itself as more multi-ethnic.

NONEThe final element was an attempt by the BN to portray themselves as ‘Generation-Y’. Najib’s campaign was linked with a new generation of leaders and an attempt to reach out the young. The idea was to showcase a new generation of Malay leaders for Malaysia.

This also goes to the heart of another dimension of Pakatan’s support, as it has presented itself as young and its engaging of the younger voters has resulted in greater political support.

These new themes in the BN campaign show that BN is changing how it is packaging itself. On the ground, many of these messages were not effectively delivered by the BN campaigners, who are locked in historic molds of race-based campaigning, use of incentives and mind-sets of entitlement. Yet, one cannot ignore that the BN at the top showed the most innovation and ingenuity this campaign.

Further polarisation

There was a cost for the political use of these messages. 1Malaysia aims at inclusiveness. It has now become a BN political tool used for political expediency. It now serves to alienate many rather than engage, in part due to the fact that people used the slogan while simultaneously adopting tactics of race and character assassination.

From Hulu Selangor onwards, Malaysian voters may potentially be increasingly become polarised around the 1Malaysia concept. This does not bode well for inclusion across races. In order to win over voters in the long term, the BN needs to implement real changes within itself and in its engagement with voters. The campaign remained highly racialised even as the messages were not. A slogan is not enough.

Further by associating himself with the Hulu Selangor campaign, Najib has entered the fray of election politics like never before. The new messages revolve around his leadership. They have the potential to raise his own personal stakes in future by-elections.

Ironically, he may have made himself more vulnerable politically. He won Hulu Selangor in a tight race, but he now will have to face even more battles ahead as he has yet to fully emerge as the conqueror.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at

Hulu Selangor: PKR Campaign of Errors

April 29, 2010

PKR campaign a comedy of errors

By Zefry Dahalan

The Jonah of PKR Hulu Selangor Ship

PKR was quick to accuse Barisan Nasional of corruption when its candidate Zaid Ibrahim was defeated in the Hulu Selangor by-election. However, sources told FMT that PKR itself was in disarray throughout the seven-day campaign period.

The sources said while PAS and DAP were in full throttle, PKR, which governs Selangor, had failed to mobilise its people. As the host, PKR was expected to lead the assault in Hulu Selangor.

“But they (PKR leaders) were nowhere to be seen,” a vexed Pakatan Rakyat grassroots leader from Johor said on condition that FMT does not name him.

“Our team was completely lost; we are not locals and we do not know the housing areas and villages there. Nobody from PKR Selangor helped us out,” he said.

“Even on the fourth day of our door-to-door campaign, we did not receive any pamphlets, or the candidate’s biodata and manifesto. Is this how you run a campaign?” he asked.To make matters worse, he said there were those linked to the Malay pressure group PERKASA which was roped in to help out in the campaign. PERKASA chairman Ibrahim Ali was campaigning for BN candidate P Kamalanathan instead.

No food and shelter

Another outstation Pakatan leader complained that they (the campaigners) had to look for their own food and lodging and had to use their money for this. According to him, all the divisions in his state contributed money to rent three houses, and for food and election campaign work.

“During our stay in Hulu Selangor, nobody from the state PKR assisted us in terms of logistics. We took money out of our own pockets because we believed in the struggle,” he said. The disappointed leader said the 100 volunteers from his state worked tirelessly to ensure a victory for Zaid.

“We took annual leave, left our jobs and families behind to help PKR. The least PKR Selangor could have done is put a roof over our heads and food on the table.Why couldn’t PKR Selangor with all its resources, state assemblymen and MPs organise an effective campaign?The party has been governing the state for two years, and it has failed to carry out such a simple task,” he added.

Apart from this, there were also reports of how PKR leaders only swung into action whenever their chief Anwar Ibrahim comes around. In one particular housing estate, a source said that PKR Selangor was not involved in the campaigning work there since day one.

“But on the night before polling day, suddenly a PKR Selangor divison took over the ceramah from PAS. It was running about here and there looking busy. When Anwar came (for the ceramah), he was given the impression that his PKR boys have been doing all the work,” added the source.

Why did Indian votes swing?

PKR's Dr. Xavier Rajakumar

The Sunday by-election also witnessed a swing in Indian support for BN. In Bukit Beruntung, a local Indian village head, who declined to be named, also blamed PKR Selangor and the state government for this. He claimed that state exco Dr Xavier Jayakumar promised funds for a temple in the village during the campaign period.

“Until 7pm on the eve of polling day, the money did not come. However, MIC handed RM10,000 a few hours later.If the exco (Jayakumar) had given us the money earlier, I would have tried my best to convince the 213 voters in my area to support PKR. But under these circumstances, I could not do anything,” he said.

The village head, who claimed to be a staunch PKR supporter, said the opposition party lost Indian votes because the state government dragged its feet in providing land titles for Tamil schools in the area.

“The state should have done it at least a year ago. It did provide land title for a Tamil school during the campaign period but it was too late,” he said. He said another reason was that Pakatan Indian leaders, including the MPs and state assemblymen, hardly did any work on the ground. “They just showed their faces whenever Anwar came,” he said.

Meanwhile, a PKR leader from Perak told FMT that the entire campaign was riddled with holes and poorly organised, especially in the Malay-majority Felda areas.

“Most of the Pakatan leaders were just interested in being speakers at the ceramah instead of helping on the ground.In a battlefield, it’s important that the soldiers have a leader. But when the leaders go missing, what can the soldiers do?” he asked.

More Leaders to Quit PKR

April 28, 2010

More Leaders to Quit PKR, says former Secretary-General Dato Sallehuddin

Neville Spykerman

PKR could lose up to five more lawmakers who are disgruntled with the party and are waiting for the right moment to announce their resignations, said Datuk Sallehuddin Hashim.

The party has already lost nine lawmakers, including four MPs, in the past two years and suffered another blow last Sunday when it failed to retain the Hulu Selangor parliamentary constituency in a by-election. It now has 26 MPs.

“Those MPs and state assemblymen, who had been contemplating leaving the party, have all decided but are waiting for the right time to do so in view of their particular beef.” the former PKR secretary-general told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

He said the five each had his own “trigger-point”, when asked if Sunday’s Hulu Selangor by-election defeat would be a catalyst for more defections from the party.

“If by ‘defections’ you mean elected representatives leaving the party, the expected loss of Hulu Selangor is an insignificant event.”

Sallehuddin pointed out that  ’desertions’ among leader in the grassroots has been continuous since the early days of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy court hearings.

He said these leaders are activists that form the bulk of Anwaristas, who is 1999 formed Parti Keadilan — the forerunner of PKR. Sallehuddin added that party elections in November will see more significant desertions.According Sallehuddin the desertions will be “engineered” by a small group of leaders whom Anwar is beholden to for support in his quest for Putrajaya and his personal legal problems.

“These desertions are reflective of the grassroots desire to keep the original struggle rather than the narrow Anwar-centric path. Anwar’s neediness is turning them off.”

Apart from the lawmakers who all became independent, five state assemblymen — two each from Perak and Kedah, and one from Selangor — are also independents. A number of grassroots leaders have also left the party or joined UMNO.

Sallehuddin who quite last January was seen at many of the press conferences called by former party members to announce their resignations.

The latest was on April 19, when Hulu Selangor PKR treasurer Dr Halili Rahmat announced his defection to UMNO on the grounds that he had lost faith in the opposition party. Selangor PKR chief Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim yesterday said those wanting to leave the party are welcome to go.

“I would prefer for them to defect now rather than later.” said the Selangor mentri besar, who was asked whether more defections were expected following the outcome of Sunday’s by election where Datuk Zaid Ibrahim was defeated by MIC’s P. Kamalanathan.

Khalid pointed out that PKR was not crumbling and managed to hold its own against the BN onslaught during campaigning. He pointed out that ‘defections’ was common among all parties, where ordinary members leave or joined other parties, and not limited just to PKR.

His political secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad pointed out that Hulu Selangor was not the first by-election that PKR had lost and the party was not weaker just because of it. “We have been losing by-elections all along but win or lose, genuine leaders will stay with the party.” said the Seri Setia state lawmaker.

More on Zaid’s Defeat

April 28, 2010

More on Zaid’s Defeat

The Indians want Hindraf. The Malays want overdraft. And the Chinese want bank draft. The Indians live for the present. The Malays live in the past. The Chinese worry about the future”.–Raja Petra Kamaruddin

news analysis by Regina Lee, a member of the Malaysiakini Team (abridged by Din Merican)

NONEEverything seemed to fall apart from the word ‘go’. Right after the nominations were filed, evidently doctored pictures of Zaid drinking alcohol emerged in the blogosphere. This evolved into a full-scale attack and then an all-out smear campaign.

Many PKR leaders insisted, and still do, that those attacks had no bearing on the Malay-majority semi-rural constituency where they make up close to 54 percent of the electorate – 7,000 of them live in Felda settlements.

PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh said feedback from Malay voters has shown that Zaid’s past indiscretions, to which he openly admitted, did not have much impact on the ground.

pkr fuziah salleh pc on islamic family law 240106 selective“The Muslims understand that what’s past is past. And they know when someone has reformed and repented,” she said when contacted.

“We were prepared, Zaid was prepared. We knew that BN would use their entire machinery on this.”

PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali confirmed that Zaid’s portfolio has been vetted thoroughly and that his credibility as a candidate has been scrutinised beforehand.

Even PAS spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat went straight to Hulu Selangor after an eight-hour flight from Mecca to vouch for Zaid’s character.

Zaid’s “aloof” image also came under attack, with many saying that, personality-wise, he did not stand a chance against that ever-smiling, hand-shaking machine, P Kamalanathan of BN. PKR dismissed this, saying the false perception was generated by the BN camp.

Conscious choice

Still, even before nomination day, many had questioned the wisdom of fielding Zaid in the parliamentary constituency, where the biggest town is Kuala Kubu Baru. It is more known for its waterfall and Chinese-Western cuisine.

azlanZaid has projected his image as that of a liberal. His views on many issues have been well-documented including the hudud law (he is against it), the wanton use of the Internal Security Act (he resigned his cabinet post for it), and affirmative action for Malays (he says he doesn’t need it).

“We took into consideration every factor. We knew the baggage that he had. That decision stands. We’re not retracting,” said Fuziah when asked if, on hindsight, Zaid would have been fielded.

Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim said the party could have selected other candidates. “But we knew that he was the right one, and he could have brought development to the constituency,” said Khalid.

In fact, party leaders as well as the Selangor government have given Zaid the green light to adopt Hulu Selangor as a pet project despite his defeat, insisting that he still heads the task force on Felda settlers’ rights.

‘Najib Factor’

While many can blame the machinery, the Election Commission, and even ‘dirty tricks’ allegedly deployed by BN, one cannot deny that “goodies” promised by the federal government were enough to swing fence-sitters.

Four new schools were promised, while millions of ringgit were to be poured into flood-mitigation projects and infrastructural repairs. But nothing says victory like cold hard cash in one’s hands, namely RM50,000 in backdated compensation to 363 Felda settlers after their land was acquired by a housing developer, whose project failed to take off. “If that is not vote-buying, I don’t know what is,” said Fuziah, who is also Kuantan MP.

NONEPolitical analyst James Chin (left), who famously said two weeks ago that he had put all his money on Zaid’s win unless major scandals were uncovered, noted that it was only during the last leg of campaigning – when all the multi-million ringgit projects were announced – that opinions started shifting.

“If you look at the announcement from Wednesday to Friday (before the polling day last Sunday), there were already RM40 million worth of allocations announced,” he said.najib visit to kuala kubu 030410 frontChin also said it was Prime Minister and BN chairperson Najib Abdul Razak’s mere presence at the tail-end of the campaign that further turned the situation awry for PKR.

“(Najib) made this a fight between himself and Zaid. The moment Najib came back from Tokyo on Wednesday, he jumped straight into the (campaign), saying that the election was about him.

“He spun the whole thing into a 1Malaysia referendum, when reality was that it was between Kamalanathan and Zaid.”

samy velluChin also observed that BN managed to capture 60 percent of the Indian vote by keeping MIC president S Samy Vellu (right) out of the limelight.

“Kamalanathan was always seen with (deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin) or Najib. I have not seen a picture of Kamalanathan with Samy Vellu in Utusan Malaysia throughout campaigning,” he said.

Spotlight on Khalid

Hulu Selangor will be a lesson for many. UMNO will rethink the amount of money poured into a by-election with a return of only a majority of 1,725 votes.

hulu selangor by-election voting day 250410 khalid ibrahimAnd PKR will rethink about retaining MB Khalid Ibrahim (wearing songkok in photo) as state election machinery head. Various PKR leaders have said he was not “hands on” in leading the party machinery.

“He was too busy. A lot of people could get away with telling him that they had done something when they had not,” claimed a PKR leader who refused to be named.

Another party insider said that, while Khalid was good at formalising logistics, he was too inexperienced as a politician to think of political strategies in the by-election. “In a by-election, there has to be a clear chain of command,” said the insider.

Now that party workers are easing back into their normal life, much work will still have to be done on the ground in finding out on why PKR lost Hulu Selangor. They need to know, lest Pakatan loses the entire state government in the next general election.

Zaid to take EC,BN, Utusan to Court

April 28, 2010

Zaid Ibrahim to take Election Commission, Barisan Nasional, Utusan Malaysia to court

By Rahmah Ghazali

PKR supreme council member Zaid Ibrahim will take legal action against the Election Commission over the Hulu Selangor by-election. Speaking at a press conference at his residence here this morning, the prominent lawyer-turned-politician accused the EC of violating its constitutional duty.

He alleged that the commission had allowed intimidation, false information as well as unfair and illegal electoral practices by the Barisan Nasional machinery during the campaign. Zaid also said he will file an election petition against the “blatant bribery” by BN workers and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

“The conduct of the prime minister was shameless and without precedent. More importantly, it is illegal. We have witnessess who are willing to come forward,” he said.

An election petition needs to be filed within 28 days of the election result.

Utusan Malaysia on the hit list as well

Meanwhile, the former law minister, who founded the country’s biggest law firm, is also training his legal guns on UMNO-owned Malay daily, Utusan Malaysia, for calling him a “kaki botol” (alcoholic).

“I was never an alcoholic. Whatever (alcohol) I consumed was no more than what (former premier Dr) Mahathir Mohamad and other UMNO leaders had consumed,” he said. Zaid reiterated that EC should not have allowed such a “malicious” campaign.

From the word go on nomination day (April 17), UMNO leaders, including Mahathir, zeroed in on Zaid’s “un-Islamic traits”, accusing him of being an alcoholic and gambler.

UMNO had hoped that an attack based on religion would sway the Malays, who form the majority of the electorate. Zaid had admitted to drinking in the past, but said he has since repented. In Sunday’s by-election, Zaid was defeated by BN’s P Kamalanathan by a majority of more than 1,700 votes.

Another Angle to the Hulu Selangor PKR Defeat

April 28, 2010

Sabotage, or Just Sheer Incompetence of PKR Selangor Election Machinery?

by Stephanie Sta Maria (

PKR’s defeat in the Hulu Selangor by-election has been the subject of much analysis and speculation from every possible angle.

Among others, the blame has been placed on Barisan Nasional for “buying votes”, which the ruling coalition has denied, and the character assassination of PKR candidate Zaid Ibrahim.

However, there is also another serious allegation making the rounds – internal sabotage. Contacted by FMT, several party sources confirmed this, calling it ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

“From day one, Zaid’s presence in PKR has been an unsettling factor for some ambitious leaders in the party. These people feel threatened by him,” they said.

When the former law minister was officially announced as PKR’s candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election, the party insisted that it was an unanimous decision.  But sources told FMT otherwise. “While no one objected to his candidacy, their acceptance was delivered  with reluctance,” they said.

This corroborated observations made by political analysts that Zaid lacked internal support because he was Anwar Ibrahim’s choice and not the party’s.  Sources claimed that Zaid was forewarned not to rely on the PKR machinery for his campaign.

PKR officials, however, expressed outrage over these claims, arguing that they worked around-the-clock to ensure that the campaign ran smoothly.  Some even accused Zaid of  “tripping himself.”

“He appointed his own team when he had the party machinery. The lack of cooperation between the two is to be blamed for any inconsistencies on the ground,” the officials told FMT.  But sources claimed that most of those who put in the real work were from Zaid’s personal team of supporters from Kelantan.

No posters, no polling agents

According to them, posters and banners delivered before nomination day (April 17) were not put up because the “other teams” refused to budge until they received the financial allocation promised to them.

There were also reports of banners and posters having mysteriously vanished in the hands of these teams. About 15,000 posters and some 100 banners went to waste.

Sources also told FMT of a skirmish during the briefing session for polling agents held by PKR.  “The situation got so out of hand that a number of DAP volunteers walked out of the briefing.

“This resulted in the late arrival of Pakatan (Rakyat) polling agents at a number of polling stations on election day. Many only turned up after polling was in full swing,” they said.Worse still, many polling stations in Hulu Bernam didn’t even have a Pakatan polling agent while the ballots were being cast.

There are two ways of looking at this. One is by attributing it to the incompetence in PKR which is unsurprising given its current turbulent state.  The other is to attribute it to sabotage by those whose status would be threatened by Zaid’s potential position as a member of parliament.

Fingers point at Azmin

And sources have fingered PKR vice-president Azmin Ali and those close to him as possible suspects.  “Zaid’s victory would change the leadership equation in PKR and put him on par with Azmin.

“Zaid is also reputed to represent the new leadership entering into PKR’s fold. He would attract educated middle Malaysians, and this would also change the internal status quo,” they said. Sources also singled out Azmin because of his influence over the PKR machinery within Selangor.

There is strong speculation that he could be responsible for the delay in putting up the banners and posters, and distribution of leaflets. Another reason for this suspicion, sources said, is that Azmin has close ties with Yahya Saari, who was in charge of campaign logistics.  Despite numerous attempts, Azmin could not be reached for comments.

‘Incompetent’ MB

Also coming under attack was Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim for his alleged incompetence  in deploying the state resources to ensure a win. “He was never seen with the candidate, but chose to erect large billboards and put up posters promoting himself instead of Zaid,” said the sources.

Drawing a comparison with how former UMNO menteris besar like Dr Mohd Khir Toyo used to spearhead election campaigns in the state, they said Khalid did not live up to expectations.

“There was no proper lodging or food provided for those who came from other states to campaign for Zaid; it was a clear example of top-to-bottom incompetence,” they said.

“In some cases, party leaders who held ceramah never mentioned the candidate’s name or his credentials; they chose to praise themselves or others instead. This is not how you win an election,” stressed the sources.

National Outrage over the death of a 15 year old schoolboy

April 28, 2010

No more cover-ups please, Mr Prime Minister

Why this murder of a 15 year old schoolboy? No cover-ups. We have had enough.  Remember Kugan, Teoh Beng Hock and others who died under custody of the relevant authorities (Police and MACC). So, please Mr. Prime Minister, you have to take action and conduct a thorough investigation. Both the IGP and the Minister of Home Affairs must resign  since responsibility and accountability stay at the top and cannot be delegated down the line.

Our nation is at risk when we have trigger happy Police personnel roaming our streets collecting rents, threatening and extorting ordinary citizens. Of what use is that Integrity Badge which adorns the police uniform and the slogan “Saya  Anti  Rasuah”.–Din Merican

Hulu Selangorians don’t want change

April 27, 2010

Hulu Selangorians don’t want change

By Kee Thuan Chye  (April 26, 2010)

COMMENT: The outcome of the Hulu Selangor by-election has been a great personal disappointment. To a layman who is not a member of any political party but who wants change, it’s clear that many of the people who voted last Sunday do not want change. And that frightens me.

In returning the parliamentary seat to Barisan Nasional, most of the Malay and Indian voters in the constituency seem to prefer remaining safely within their cocoon of ignorance about the reality of what is happening outside their kawasan. Many of them are mere rural yokels, city slickers might say, and therefore excused from wanting to see the larger picture.

Many, perhaps, are  incapable of seeing the subterfuge behind the BN’s gargantuan effort to win their votes. They took the money, the bribes, the promises of development, and felt beholden to the giver: never mind that such bribery was a form of corruption; they became complicit.

Most Chinese voters rejected the old corrupt ways. More than 75 per cent of them voted for Pakatan Rakyat, advising one another to yong ngan thhai (open your eyes). Some rejected duit kotor handouts; others took the money and voted against the giver. They were aware of the larger world, of the legacy of lies and letdowns from more than 50 years of BN rule. Why weren’t the Malay and Indian voters as clued in?

Malay voters were worried about losing their rights, no doubt, after being bombarded with BN propaganda gushing from Utusan Malaysia and TV3. Indian voters suffered from myopia and amnesia, the big Hindraf  March of late 2007 expressing the frustration of more than 50 years of Indian marginalisation all but forgotten. They went for the short-term gains.

A hollow victory

The BN’s majority of 1,725 votes for its candidate, P. Kamalanathan, and his sponsors, Najib Abdul Razak and UMNO, represent a hollow victory. Were they to objectively assess their returns from the money and machinery thrown into the effort, they would have to admit they could have scored better. And if they were honest about it, they would also acknowledge that the subterfuge  made their victory less deserved, less meaningful.

Where did the money come from? Some, no doubt, from the Treasury, money from taxpayers.  Najib promised RM3 million to a Chinese school in Rasa if BN won: that school is not even in the list of Chinese schools slated to receive government aid. As a taxpayer, I don’t agree to such aid to a Chinese school in return for votes. More importantly, as a taxpayer, I don’t subscribe to money politics.

In such an instance, can a citizen sue the leader of the ruling party for making use of public funds for dubious purposes? Perhaps it’s something worth looking into.

Najib also allocated to an Indian temple the land on which it had illegally been built. Did he not condone an illegal action by making it legal through the gift of land? Worse, he displayed bad form in openly stating that he expected the community to reciprocate by voting for the BN. And this coming from no less than a prime minister.

It was just as disgraceful for Najib to say when he first went to the ground: “Even before winning, we are already giving out ang pows. If we win, the ang pows will be bigger.” What message is he sending out to the people of his 1Malaysia? What values for our young?

It was morally wrong. So wrong any level-headed person would have seen it. Said a reader in Malaysiakini: “How do you end corruption when the government practises it blatantly in this Hulu Selangor buy-election?”

Defeat of Rakyat Power

As in the 2008 general election, Hulu Selangor produced a black-and-white distinction between good guys and bad guys, just like Hollywood westerns of old — something like The Magnificent 7 (or rather The Seven Samurai, which provided the inspiration for it). The sad exception was that, where in both movies the underdog won despite lack of resources and firepower, in Hulu Selangor the underdog lost.

The defeat was more poignant for rakyat power being defeated by government power. The volunteers who worked so hard behind Pakatan Rakyat’s candidate, Zaid Ibrahim, gave freely of themselves. They were committed, from being committed to the idea of change.

They checked the people sent on buses to voting centres to make sure they were not phantom voters. They went from door to door to impart to voters the message of change. They blogged. They wrote articles for online media. They tweeted to spread the latest developments. They spent their own time and money.

They were men and women who toiled for an ideal. They dignified an otherwise dirty by-election. Dignity is a key word here. Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim said at the coalition’s huge final rally in Kuala Kubu Baru on election eve, “It is a question of dignity for the people of Hulu Selangor. Let us not because of RM200 sell our dignity. Tomorrow is the day to regain our dignity … no one can take it from us.”

The majority of voters paid no heed. And BN showed no dignity.Those who voted for the party, by endorsing a lack of dignity, collaborated in diminishing the value of dignity. Unless and until the Malaysian electorate can uphold dignity, we will continue to be ruled by the less than dignified, those who will stoop to anything to ensure victory for themselves, those who will do that which is wrong and refuse to admit it.

Same old dirty ways

Unless and until the Malaysian electorate holds high the need for dignity, we will not get change. Najib called the by-election a referendum on his performance as PM. How reliable is that a measure if you throw ang pows around and tell people bluntly that, in return, they should vote for BN? A paid-for endorsement is not true endorsement. Didn’t he want a genuine appraisal? In any case, with BN getting 24,977 out of the total 48,935 votes – endorsement by just 51.1 per cent of voters  – the jury’s still out.

What emerges clearly is that BN, or rather UMNO, will not change its ways; it still plays by the old dirty tactics.  One of the declared aims of Najib’s New Economic Model is to weed out corruption. That should include money politics, which is certainly a form of corruption.

Those NEM reforms, in any case, face resistance from within his own party, which means he may, at best, be able to give only a promise of change or a semblance of it without delivering on the real thing. To keep himself in power, he might not want to rock the UMNO boat too much. If he does and the warlords take over, that could be even worse for Malaysia.

Either way, it would be pointless to give the BN the mandate at the next general election if we want change and a chance to rejuvenate Malaysia.

Challenge for Pakatan

The problem, as seen at Hulu Selangor, is how to get the people who voted for BN to understand any concept of change if they can succumb so easily to money politics? If that’s the mentality and level of maturity of these voters – and there must be many times more of such throughout the country  – how can we expect them to vote for change?

That is the big challenge for Pakatan to overcome. It must take the bull by the horns now and show itself as a viable alternative, not just rely on winning sympathy from voters by criticising the BN government and exposing its mistakes and shortcomings.

The media have already begun to spin the line that Pakatan is tearing the nation apart with “disruptive” politics. To counter this, Pakatan must proactively and aggressively take to the people its vision of a new Malaysia, and show how it can govern when the time comes and what its policies will be. There is no time to waste. Pakatan should have started yesterday.

Najib keeps coming up with stuff like 1Malaysia, GTP, NEM. What does Pakatan have to offer? If they have their own policies and programmes already, why don’t they implement them straight away to help the people? Do they even have a shadow Cabinet? What is their shadow Budget? How can the state governments they run perform even better?

Having lost the battle for Hulu Selangor, Pakatan has to gear up for the war: the next general election. The support it obtained in Hulu Selangor is certainly not measly, and Pakatan should be heartened by it.

The Road to Change is long and winding, but the work must begin now. When the general election comes around, I hope I won’t be disappointed, as I was in Hulu Selangor.

Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up’

Post Hulu Selangor: MCA starts the Blame Game

April 27, 2010

MCA President blames PERKASA for loss of Chinese Support

by Clara Chooi

The MCA has blamed “organisations like Perkasa” for Barisan Nasional’s failure in recapturing Chinese support, especially in the recent Hulu Selangor by-election.

In a press statement today, party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek (picture) condemned Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s statement urging the government not to fulfil its pledges of development to the Chinese community.

“I wish to condemn in the strongest terms the statement by the PERKASA chief for asking the government to delay the development allocations to the Chinese community.

“I wish to stress that government money belongs to the people. It should be used for the local community for local development,” Dr Chua said.

In Sunday’s polls, BN’s P. Kamalanathan secured a 1,725-vote majority win over PKR’s Datuk Zaid Ibrahim but failed to recapture votes from the Chinese community. The BN only secured fewer than 30 per cent of the Chinese votes, down from the 35 per cent it had garnered during Election 2008.

Ibrahim, the Pasir Mas MP,  had capitalised on this and had called the Chinese community “ungrateful.” He urged the BN government not to fulfil its promises to them.

Ibrahim had also called on the government to ignore demands made by the MCA and Gerakan as punishment for their failure to attract Chinese voters.

Dr Chua said that the Chinese voters of Hulu Selangor should not be punished for their failure to choose the BN in the election.

The MCA president noted that he had already discussed the matter with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the latter had given an assurance that he would not take heed of Ibrahim’s demands.

“Najib has given his assurance that the BN will fulfil its pledges of development to the voters of Hulu Selangor. The BN does not renege on its promises,” he claimed.

Dr Chua lambasted Ibrahim for his statement and said that it was organisations like PERKASA that made it difficult for the MCA to get Chinese support for the BN.“Malaysia will not be able to progress if we continue to have people like Ibrahim Ali who professes to champion along racial lines with disregard to the sensitivity of other communities in the country,” he said.

He added that all politicians should be reminded not to utter remarks that touch on the fabric of culture, religion and race for such actions were contrary to the prime minister’s 1 Malaysia platform.

This is the second time the MCA has been at loggerheads with the Malay rights group, which has the backing of many UMNO members and some of its leaders.

When contacted by The Malaysian Insider, Dr Chua said: “Who is PERKASA anyway? They are just an NGO.” He also blamed the negative campaigning employed by some of the more right-wing members of UMNO, many of them PERKASA supporters, for the loss of Chinese support for BN.

Dr Chua claimed that Zaid had only gained further popularity with the Chinese voters when BN attempted to use his drinking past and purported gambling habits to discredit him. “Zaid is known as a liberal Malay leader. He is popular, especially among the younger generation of voters compared to Kamalanathan, who is just a new leader.The attempt to blacken his image with the gambling and drinking allegations would not work in the Chinese community because they do not view these things negatively. In fact, they can better identify with him,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gerakan vice-president Datuk Chang Ko Youn said Ibrahim’s statement was “irresponsible” and accused the independent MP of failing to take cognisance of the reason why the Chinese community had abandoned the BN.“He should stop making extremist statements and stop trying to alienate the MCA and Gerakan in the BN,” he said.

Hulu Selangor: a Technical Draw (?)

April 27, 2010

Assessing Hulu Selangor (Part 1)

by Dr Bridget Welsh

Despite the BN victory, the geography and ethnic breakdown of the victory does not suggest that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and BN are out of the woods. Quite the opposite is the case; the close Hulu Selangor by-election win of 2.7% shows that the BN is far indeed from regaining national and state power.

The main finding from the by-election results is that the electorate remains deeply polarised. The results show that there is no major national swing across races or generations.

Let me take you through my analysis of the results. Let’s begin with a bit of basics about this constituency. It is huge – with isolated communities, many with little connection to each other. The Chinese communities are comprised of 13 new villages and Chinese in the main town of Kuala Kubu Baru. The Indian communities are concentrated in estates, with considerable number living throughout the constituency especially in the south.

Malays are concentrated in key rural communities, the Felda area of Ulu Bernam in the north to the eastern areas such as Sungai Buaya in Batang Kali in the south. The more east and south, the greater the level of development, as it is closer to Kuala Lumpur. The key exception is the lovely town of Kuala Kubu Baru, which is comprised of small businesses and a large number of civil servants.

So what do the results of the 48 different polling stations tell us?

1. Every vote did count. Gains and losses were well distributed over the entire constituency. There are only a few areas where significant swings occurred. Most of the gains for the BN were in Batang Kali. The gains for the opposition were primarily in Kuala Kubu Baru.

2. Ethnic voting is not consistent overall. No coalition won over one group consistently. Local dynamics did shape the contests. For example, Indian voters in Kerling stayed in Pakatan’s camp, while in other areas such as Ladang Nigel Gardner they moved. This was the product of ongoing concerns about land in Kerling, and the local efforts of the MIC in Nigel Gardner which included financial incentives of around RM300, for example. This was a contest about individual localities and the results confirmed this pattern.

3. Chinese votes show the most consistency. They swung on average over 5% to Pakatan Rakyat. This was most obvious in Rasa, where the BN’s promise of RM3 million backfired. A similar trend occurred in Kalompang. More Chinese voted, in part due to the high level of political campaigning in these areas from both sides and strong sentiment on the ground.

The BN remains unable to win over Chinese support, particularly through financial incentives. The MCA did not effectively deliver the Chinese votes, in part due to DAP’s strength on the ground.

‘Lots of promises’

4. Indian voters remained the most likely possible swing voters, as they moved in different directions in different localities. There is an overall slight return to the BN, but very small. Part of this had to do with the race of the candidate (one of their own). Part was tied to the heavy rewards for voting in some areas. Part was tied to which party has the strongest local machinery. No question, the campaign lacked the same level of passion of 2008 among Indian opposition supporters overall.

5. Malay votes did swing but only in certain areas. There was very little overall movement in the Felda area of Ulu Bernam. Movement toward the BN occurred largely in Batang Kali in the areas of Sungai Buaya and Bukit Beruntung. These were areas where the Umno machinery was well-oiled and the BN engaged the issues of land.

Lots of promises were made to resolve outstanding concerns. The overall pattern does not suggest a convincing swing toward UMNO or the BN. Gains were small, usually less than 5%. Low voter turnout was focused in Malay areas, which reinforce the pattern of limited re-engagement of the BN with the Malay ground.

6. The localised Malay swing was decisive. The swing in the Malay voters in these two localities were arguably the most important factor in the results in that they comprised an estimated quarter of the voters in the BN majority. The movement in the Chinese areas was the second most important factor.

7. Younger voters voted primarily opposition, including new voters. This pattern was across ethnic groups, but most striking among Malays. This follows the traditional generational pattern in 1999 and 2008. There were very few new voters registered in this area, which suggests that new voters are not registering – another national pattern.

8. Voters did not come home in large numbers. The number of those stationed outside who returned to vote was lower than in 2008 and this contributed to lower voter turnout particularly in the Malay areas. It also contributed to the loss for Pakatan. The police handled the movement of voters and traffic professionally on voting day.

9. The Election Commission factor did not decisively affect results. The movement of voters to other schools made for some confusion and there are reports (estimated less than 100 of voters who could not vote at all), but this did not prove decisive to the final results.

Ground remains competitive

10. No consistent urban-rural divide. While there were gains for the opposition in the town area of Kuala Kubu Baru, and the BN won most of its returned support in the rural areas, the diversity of the pattern of voting suggests that the semi-rural periphery remains highly contested and winnable for both sides.

So, what is the national upshot here? Let me begin with a caveat – it is important to remember that one cannot read too much from one constituency and contest. This constituency, however, offers diversity to allow for broader national indications, yet it was unique in its size and proximity to Kuala Lumpur that added even more intensity to the level of political engagement.

This said, the key finding is that the Malaysian electorate remains highly polarised within ethnic communities and across generations. While the passion of reformasi has ebbed, the core loyalists to both sides of the political terrain remain firm.

The middle ground was less inspired this time round, in part due to the nature of both the campaigns that did not draw voters to the polls clearly and convincingly. In short, the ground remains competitive for both sides.

As we look to the next national polls, ethnically, the BN has the slight advantage nationally, but generationally the opposition is favoured. In the final analysis, BN’s slim margin does speak to substantial changes in voting behavior.

This is the first of three articles analysing the Sunday’s Hulu Selangor by-election. The second article will appear tomorrow.


DR BRIDGET WELSH is associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. She can be reached at

Enterpreneurs, Bankers and Policies

April 27, 2010

Enterpreneurs, Bankers and Policies

by etheorist (April 26,  2010)

If pandering to foreign investors is not the best path to high income in an economy, then it is necessary to woo local investors. Who are they?

Local savers and investors are the true patriots of the nation, for they are the people who sink their toes into the soil, dig deep and are willing to do and die on this soil. They are the true sons and daughters of the soil, for they make this land a place where they will live and die.

The true patriots are those who work very hard, despite even extremely conditions, following the basic rule of economic survival of not consuming at one go all that one has at the moment. With the little that they have saved, they hope to graduate from the drudgery of earning wages based on their subservience to become masters of their own little capital, from which they hope to earn a multiple from.

How fast that little capital spin and grow depends on their astuteness in knowing what the market needs, what the market is likely to need in the immediate future and in understanding the dynamics of the market supply and demand situation.

Those who read the market properly succeed; and those who don’t, fail. Successes and failures are both part of the dynamics of a growing economy that yearns to earn high income. Protecting failures breeds insolence, while protecting successes breeds arrogance.

How the nation can break out of its little coconut shell depends on the courage of those with money to support those with foresight and ideas backed by technical skills.

In traditional societies without a modern banking system, the funding is undertaken by snake heads, gangsters and Ah Longs who go sideways into funding enterprises that cater to the base needs of unenlightened human beings like themselves.

In a modern society with a modern banking system, funding is controlled by bankers. In the not too distance past, bankers cultivated good relationships with their clients on a professional basis, qua bankers. Today, people who work in financial institutions are not real bankers for they merely handle money in the abstract sense, paying close to their gods of the stock market, and moving money in terms of the balance sheets and their income statements. They do not understand the underlying dynamics of money and the economy, except in lending (a) where there is supposed to be no risk (ie real estate) or (b) where the rate of return is the high (ie financial products). The real business of producing goods and services to the neighborhood has become too boring a lending proposition.

The tendency for bankers to mass process their loan applications is caused by the change in central banking thinking from keeping the creation of fiat money on an even keel to one where new money is used to cover up the failures of old money. That big money funds big multinationals should not be a surprising phenomenon, for the strategy is global economic domination. There is no wonder that bankers surrender their lending policies to the corporate strategies of the multinationals, and there is no wonder that the global economy today is dictation by foreign direct investments – as the rich of every emerging economy in Asia and Eastern Europe invest abroad in search of higher and higher returns.

This broad sweep of the global economic and financial landscapes shows the difficulty in formulating good local investment policies where emphasis is placed on local personal knowledge and global market intelligence. Good policies must encourage the dissemination of accurate information and impartial news for local investors to make good decisions in an increasingly challenging world.

All efforts must go out to lay an even ground for all economic players so that they can concentrate on winning the economic game at the global level. We have to begin to work together as a national team with the government laying down simple clear policies, the bankers keeping track of the economics with their customers, and the entrepreneurs sweating it out to pay the banks and feed their families.

Do the key players of the economy know what they are doing? Or are they merely repeating what’s in the news?

A Hollow Victory in Hulu Selangor

April 26, 2010

Hollow victory in Hulu Selangor, says PKR’s Kim Quek

comment Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak might have won the electoral battle at Hulu Selangor, but he sure has taken a giant step backwards in defending Putrajaya against the relentless advance of Pakatan Rakyat.

The orgy of election bribery indulged over those few days leading up to polling day on April 25 would have put any other pseudo-democracy to shame when comparing election excesses.

To induce votes, Najib and his colleagues made innumerable on-the-spot grants of cash and promises of goodies (many were conditional upon a BN win) that run easily to hundreds of million of ringgit during that compact campaign period.

These include the construction of a university and several schools, an expressway interchange and many other infrastructures, several low cost housing projects, upgrading of mosques and temples, grants to community guilds and associations, and cash payments to individuals.

NONEThese election goodies were so many and so large that I doubt Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin can keep track of the number or total cost.

The single event that impacted most on the electoral outcome was perhaps the occasion of Najib himself handing over RM5 million cash to 100 Felda settlers in a highly trumpeted ceremony two days before polling. These settlers were among victims of a failed project committed to a private developer 15 years ago.

The greatest irony was that, amidst this spree, Najib made an impassioned last-minute plea to the electorate through an open letter bearing his signature, asking for another chance to institute ‘change’ in his administration so as to redeem BN’s mistakes.

Was Najib not aware that this endless stream of impromptu election goodies constitute serious offences under Section 10 of the Election Offences Act 1954? By committing these acts of corruption to such an unprecedented scale while simultaneously articulating his ‘change’ agenda, he was in effect telling the world : ‘This is what I mean by ‘change’ – I will not hesitate to escalate corrupted activities and damn the laws, if my political interests so demand.’

Reflecting on Najib’s tenure since early last year, this philosophy of ‘the end justifies the means’ as exemplified by his conduct in the Hulu Selangor by-election seems to aptly explain the series of scandals that illustrated the ruling power’s contempt for the constitution and the rule of law.

These include the unconstitutional power grab in Perak, the continuing persecution of Anwar Ibrahim via the Sodomy II trial, the awkward attempt to hide the real culprits in the show trial of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s grisly murder and the tragic death of Teoh Beng Hock while in the custody of MACC and the subsequent inquest.

Disgraceful victory

In the aftermath of this sordid by-election, Najib and his cohorts have, as expected, hailed this disgraceful victory as the nation’s endorsement of Najib’s new policy and the shifting of support to BN.

However, removing the thin veneer of this pyrrhic victory, we find that the contrary is true. In fact, a cursory review of this by-election (many prefer to call it ‘buy-election’) has revealed trends and phenomena that should cause BN to be worried, very worried.

First, winning by 1,700 votes does not necessarily indicate an increase of support. On the contrary, it could mean a substantial drop of support, if we consider the fact that in the last general election in March 2008, BN’s combined majority of the three state constituencies that made up the parliamentary constituency of Hulu Selangor was 6,300 votes.

If UMNO can secure only a marginal victory (24,997 vs 23,272) after such heavy abuses of public funds and politically manipulated institutions, there is not the slightest chance that the same can be repeated in a general election, during which, Hulu Selangor will surely fall back to Pakatan, just as Ijok did previously.

Second, judging from the response of the electorate during the election campaign, Najib’s ‘lMalaysia’ advocacy has failed to take root among BN supporters. This was prominently reflected in the respective finale of the two protagonists’ election campaign on the eve of polling.

NONEWhile the BN rally (right), estimated at 3,000, was attended almost exclusively by Malays, with a sprinkling of Indians; the 15,000 strong Pakatan rally was a colourful display of multi-racialism with a healthy proportion of the three races. It left one with the unmistakable impression that the coalition that has really succeeded in realising ‘1Malaysia’ is Pakatan, not BN.

Third, the Chinese support to BN has dwindled to an even smaller minority (less than one third) despite the many carrots dangled before the community – particularly Najib’s personal promise to grant a RM3 million grant to a Chinese school the very next day after polling, conditioned upon a BN win.

This indicates that the Chinese electorate has politically matured to the point that they are relatively immune to BN’s election bribery. For them, nothing short of real reforms would do.

As Umno is not capable of instituting real reforms, this naturally spells the end of the political lifespan of the Chinese racial party MCA, and by corollary, that of Gerakan. With the Indian racial party MIC also having lost the support of Indians, the isolation of Umno in Peninsular Malaysia is complete.

Considering that they had been the bulwark of support to UMNO in past elections, their eclipse means that UMNO’s political wings in the peninsula are clipped.

Eyes elsewhere

Hence, UMNO’s final grasp at power is now hinged to its relationship with the BN component parties in Sabah and Sarawak, which unfortunately are not in the best of terms with the UMNO-dominated federal government.

september 16 sarawak and sabah independenceKnown for their strong regionalism and thrust to their king-maker position by the political tsunami of the 2008 general election, Sabah and Sarawak are now a hive of discontent and resentment against the exploitation and short-changing of their autonomous rights under the autocratic UMNO-dominated BN leadership.

With a maimed UMNO in the peninsula, and a resurgent Pakatan offering a just deal and restoration of autonomy to these two states, the people there for the first time have the real option of clinching the best political deal since the formation of Malaysia almost five decades ago.

Since the people in Sabah and Sarawak are less race-conscious than their peninsular counterparts and in fact rather irritated by the heavy racism practiced by UMNO, for how long can UMNO’s race politics withstand the challenge for influence by the multi-racial Pakatan in these two territories, and by extension the political power over the entire country? The Hulu Selangor by-election has given us a pointer, and it ain’t looking good for UMNO.

KIM QUEK is a retired accountant and PKR member.