PKR comes of age

May 31, 2010

PKR  comes of age

By Hawkeye

KOTA BARU: As befits a party that is a partner in four state administrations, PKR used its congress this weekend more as an occasion to evaluate its performance than an opportunity to indulge in its traditional preoccupation of UMNO-bashing.

This was evident in both the issues raised in the speeches in the assembly hall and the comments made in media interviews on the sidelines.

Nearly all of the 40-odd speakers at the party’s sixth national congress here showed concern over such issues as the effectiveness of policies and their implementation and the quality of leadership that PKR had to offer.

The spotlight shone mostly on Selangor, the only Pakatan-ruled state where PKR is the leading partner.Vice-president Azmin Ali, in a highly charged speech that wound up the presidential keynote address, emphasised on improving the management of Selangor, which has lately been a target of much criticism resulting from revelations of alleged corruption in sand mining.

Azmin called for consistency and an unwavering attitude in the PKR struggle against corruption and power abuse.

He also said that the party must not let itself be too overwhelmed and distracted by defections and other obstacles its enemies were trying to place on its path. The road to Putrajaya, he added, must run through each of the four Pakatan states. “People want to see a proven track record before they commit themselves fully to supporting the alliance,” he said.

Secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, presenting his latest report, said PKR had recorded some 500,000 members to date. However, he devoted most of his speech to exhorting members to ensure that the party focused on good governance and on synergy between itself and the other two Pakatan parties — PAS and DAP.

Almost all of the 20-member supreme council, including former MCA leader Chua Jui Meng, addressed the controversy surrounding the leadership of Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and many defended him.

Khalid explained at the podium that fighting corruption was the forte of his state administration. However, he chose not to dwell on issues specific to Selangor, devoting most of his speech to the need to groom the young to take over from the present generation of leaders.

Growing-up pains

V Arumugam, deputy chairman of Kedah PKR, spoke to reporters about the party’s growing-up pains, saying it was time to get over it.He said PKR must concentrate its efforts on playing an effective role as part of the parliamentary opposition while paying equal attention to governing Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan.

He also called for better coordination among all members of PKR, PAS and DAP. Even the upcoming party elections in December took a back seat as delegates pleaded for PKR leaders to give due attention to issues of governance and to listen more attentively to voices from the grassroots.

Party adviser Anwar Ibrahim, winding up the proceedings, urged the party to remain resolute and promised that he would give his “undivided attention” to Selangor.

Anwar, who is officially the economic adviser to the Selangor government, said the state must cut bureaucratic red tape in the interest of speeding up growth.”It is tough, 50 years under Barisan Nasional and only two years under PKR. But we must strive to improve ourselves in Selangor.”

UMNO and PKR under pressure from Malay Ultras

May 31, 2010

UMNO and PKR under pressure from Malay Ultras over Economic Policy

by Terence Netto

Last weekend, UMNO and archrivals PKR were eyeball-to-eyeball and both sides just blinked – and thereby lost a good opportunity to get ahead in the perception game.

If politics is also about perception, the rivals let slip a grand chance to decisively foist the ‘Lost it’ tag on the other in the battle to show voters which party ought to be trusted with Malaysia’s future.

UMNO was under pressure from Perkasa, who on Saturday had organised a one-day symposium on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s New Economic Model.

NONEThe Malay pressure group hosted the occasion to fortify opposition to NEM which is Najib’s bid to check UMN)’s sliding popularity with an economic agenda – incidentally, largely borrowed from PKR’s Malaysian Economic Agenda – that is more equitable than the four decade-old NEP.

Najib, by being present at the tail-end of the symposium and by assuring the audience that the NEP will not be consigned to oblivion, only succeeded in conveying the impression his much-touted NEM is going to be window-dressing.

However, he need not have worried too much about the effect of this seeming retreat.  Last weekend also saw a slip slide of sorts by UMNO’s rival PKR which held its sixth annual convention in opposition-friendly Kota Bharu.

Under pressure from by-election results from Bagan Pinang and Hulu Selangor where Malay support was seen to have slipped for the opposition and intent on countering Perkasa’s attempt at stirring Malay anxiety over their future under a Pakatan Rakyat government, PKR wavered from their stance of looking at issues without racial blinkers.

Conference on Malay poverty

Sections of the party felt that they had to throw a sop to Malay anxiety: they decided PKR must hold a congress on how to tackle Malay poverty.  Better still, this congress would canvass inputs from non-Malays on how to reduce poverty among bumiputeras. Presumably, the gesture would dim the racial overtones of the whole venture.

Never mind it has been said countless times that the majority of the poor in Malaysia are Malays and PKR’s touted Malaysian Economic Agenda is geared to reducing their numbers, irrespective of race.

pkr congress agm kota baru 300510 anwar saifuddinBut PKR last weekend appeared to have lacked faith in their largely accurate diagnosis and in their vote-winning prescription.

Thus both UMNO and PKR squandered a good chance to show the Malaysian electorate that their worldview – a decade into the 21st century when issues of race have become horribly passé – no longer revolves obsessively around the antic.

The irony in this was more marked for PKR than UMNO, which is widely viewed as the party of stagnation and resistance to change.

No less than PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had asked the party faithful to be bold about proclaiming that they are the party of the Malaysian future. That future would only be different from the Malaysian past if it is less obsessed with race.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

Khalid Ibrahim remains in charge of Selangor

May 31, 2010

Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim remains in charge of Selangor

By Neville Spykerman

The PKR leadership has saved Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s job despite severe internal criticism over a sand-mining scandal that has marred the party’s integrity and Selangor’s financial performance.

Delegates at the party’s sixth annual congress in Kota Baru over the weekend tore at the Selangor Mentri Besar, suggesting he should make way for someone else to manage and defend the country’s most-industrialised state in the next general election.

But PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, stoutly defended the former corporate chief by saying some matters were beyond his control.

“If someone asks me how to evaluate the performance of Tan Sri Khalid or Pakatan Rakyat (PR), what we will say is that the first thing that we promised is a clean and transparent government. With that, we defend that Khalid has been successful,” Anwar said yesterday when closing the PKR annual congress.

But detractors say it was not clean in the lucrative but illegal sand-mining industry, and that this has tarnished the PR administration and was reportedly costing the state government some RM728,000 a month.

Over 30 illegal mines are believed to be extracting sand every month and the state seemed powerless to stop them.

The Khalid administration set up Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) in September 2008, soon after PR took over Selangor, to put stop to illegal sand-mining in the state by extracting 75 million tonnes of sand annually, or over six million tonnes a month. But the state-owned sand-mining subsidiary was not the silver bullet Khalid had imagined it would be.

Under KSSB, which was the sole licensed concessionaire for sand-mining on land owned by the state and its subsidiaries, Selangor was forecast to generate between RM100 million and RM300 million annually.

The Selangor Mentri Besar had announced that all proceeds from KSSB would be channelled to state welfare programmes.

However, state officials have admitted to The Malaysian Insider that the calculations in the forecast were grossly wrong.

Under Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo’s administration in 2007, the state earned RM17 million but believed it should have been receiving well over RM100 million in royalties.

KSSB’s profits were also forecast based on demand for sand that year. But in the four months after KSSB was established in September 2008, the state only earned RM1.99 million. For the whole of 2009, KSSB received RM9.40 million, and RM1.11 million between January and March this year.

Officially, the discrepancy has been attributed to poor demand because of the economic downturn. But at the same time, KSSB has been plagued with claims of corruption and mismanagement.While acknowledging there are problems, state officials said it was overly simplistic to solely blame the state subsidiary.

“Illegal sand-mining occurs throughout the country and was prevalent long before PR assumed the helm in Selangor,” said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sand-mining concessions were also frequently a form of largesse for the “politically connected.” In Selangor, KSSB’s “control” of sand-mining was regarded as a hindrance to the old system of political patronage.

It is understood that Khalid was under fire both from those who no longer enjoy this source of easy revenue as well as those within PR who expect to be “rewarded”. At the same time, the old problems of under-declaration of sand being mined and under-payment of royalties have not been solved.

While KSSB was established to overcome and streamline all sand-mining activities in the state, enforcement still falls under the jurisdiction of local, state and federal authorities. KSSB may have been a noble intention on the part of Khalid, but the state subsidiary’s failures are an Achilles’ heel to his administration.

Gasbags a plenty in the MIC

May 31, 2010

Gasbags a plenty in the MIC

by  toffeeturn

This huge GAS rally is nothing but GASS, a bunch of gasbags trying to fool the  already fooled Indian community who cannot see where their bread is buttered, or maybe ,where the sambar and chutney are for their Thosai.

Time for both to stay out of politics?

It is the vacuum being created by Samy’s exit that they intend to fill; they know the crowd are in a mood for change and they want to capitalise from this change to get maximum advantage and sadly this is the typical BN political hype and has been so for a very long time, we’ve seen it in UMNO, the MCA and now in the MIC. This is getting to look quite MCAish after the Ong Tee Keat debacle.

In the other Barisan parties, it is a race to become millionaire extraordinaire, by selling your community to UMNO and racial politics. This is Malaysia we should have no room for Indians, Chinese and Malays, only Malaysians and that is how our political landscape must be carved, that is the only way we will progress, to do we have to rid ourselves the MIC first.

Just take a look at what these gasbags are saying, V Subramaniam, more popularly known by the name Baratmaniam, blasted Samy for the loss of RM9 million of RM10 Telekom shares that were meant for the Indian community in 1990, and raised the MIED scandal, which is an Institute meant for the community and not one individual.

V Govindarajoo a veteran MIC leader apologized to the crowd for having brought Samy Veloo into MIC, he is reported to have said, “I’ve felt very sorry. Samy has betrayed the community and the nation. He did this not only to MIC, but to MCA and UMNO as well. I was the one who introduced Samy to MIC, and now, he must step down and get out,”

The sacked Central Working Committee member KP Samy, addressing the audience, alleged Samy Veloo to be the cause of the downfall and economic deprivation of Indians. Mugilan claimed that RM5 million had been spent to stop people from attending the GAS rally, implying some rough hand tactics used to stop members from attending, and even saying a member could have been kidnapped.

The anti-climax of the whole issue was when Mugilan asked the government to give Samy Veloo a “Senior Position” if he steps down; for all he has done, the government should contemplate arresting him instead, not rewarding him.

That is this Muligan, and he is aspiring to be a future MIC leader ;will anyone ever have him besides some ignorant Indians in this country, made ignorant by the BN government and the MIC. Like UMNO these people thrive on making the rakyat ignorant. Samy deserves to be kicked off, and MIC deserves the only next best thing to be cast into the dustbin of Malaysian political history.

Trust in Khalid Ibrahim, says Anwar Ibrahim

May 30, 2010

Anwar: Trust in Khalid Ibrahim

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani (in Kota Bharu)

Trust this clean and sincere Menteri Besar, says Anwar

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today urged PKR members to have patience and confidence in Selangor  Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who faced criticism for mishandling the state.

Khalid has been under heavy scrutiny from his own party congress here after PKR’s loss in the Hulu Selangor by-election and a sand mining scandal. Several delegates have said that Khalid should be replaced if he is not capable of managing the country’s most industrialised state.

Anwar defended his close ally and said that Khalid was a “sincere and clean” leader. “When someone asked me how do I measure someone’s credibility? I said that it is very hard to some a leader who is sincere and clean. Where his record is clean and not corrupt,” the PKR de facto leader said when closing the congress.

He did admit that the state was plagued with problems. “I invited Tan Sri Khalid to join the party, two year later we see problems. What you don’t know is that he does not have the absolute power as the mentri besar. Every step taken there is problems from the University to government agencies.

“We still have problems with religious council. I do not want to use this as an excuse for our not performing because to the rakyat, we cannot say that we have problems. The people want solution. That is why the problem has to be solved,” he said.

Anwar said that slow implementation of policies in Selangor was due to the country’s stagnant economy. “The main problem is the slow implementation of the economic policies because the country’s dismal economy, investments is not coming in. Therefore Selangor must be more aggressive to ensure that projects approval will be expedited,” he said.

The former deputy prime minister also admitted that he needs to perform better as the state’s economic advisor. However he said that the Selangor government has fulfilled its promise of clean government.

“If someone asks me how to evaluate the performance of Tan Sri Khalid or Pakatan Rakyat, what we will say is that the first thing that we promised is a clean and transparent government. With that we defend that Khalid has been successful.

“This is the most important issue because the country is broken due to corruption. This country is broken because ministers and mentri besar take people’s money, shares, land and timber. This is our war because of corrupted leaders that steal from the people. This is will not happen under Tan Sri Khalid. We must explain this matter to the public,” he said.

Anwar also agreed with the delegates demands that the state appoint party members to local government. “I agree with the delegates but the candidate must be qualified. The candidate must only be a professional but have a clean track record. And we must be confident with the candidate because when he is at the helm of any GLCs, he would not be corrupt.  We must give space to Tan Sri Khalid to ensure the right candidate,” he said.

Earlier, party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reiterated the need for the members to patient with Khaild.

“Like any renovation, we must do it slowly. If we want to do a proper renovation then we have to do many things. So give him time, please be patient,” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah also warned that party should not be blinded with Putrajaya and not forget the root of their struggle. “I want to give one message that we all have a stake in this party, you are not mere audience. How are you going to contribute to our struggle? Allah can’t change our fate, only we can” she said.

She also had a light moment with the delegates and joked about Anwar. “Syamsul Iskandar earlier said that Anwar belongs to party. Anwar belongs to the people. Hey, he is my man lah,” she said.

Later during a press conference, Anwar said that the party will be looking to strengthening its leadership. “I will discuss with President and deputy president on how we could strengthen the party leadership with new appointments. We will discuss on certain duties in several committees. We will decide on this matter in the next few days,” he said.

NEP and NEM: Najib’s Dilemma

May 30, 2010

NEP and NEM at Bumiputera Economic Congress:  Najib’s Dilemma

by Hazlan Zakaria

Faced with a 1,000-strong crowd of Malay grassroots and industry leaders, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday vowed never to betray his father’s legacy, the New Economic Policy (NEP).

NONEGiving the closing speech to the Bumiputera Economic Congress (BEC) that had debated his much-touted New Economic Model (NEM), the prime minister sought to allay fears that the pro-Malay affirmative action policies of the NEP would be done away with.

After all, said Najib, his NEM has not yet been finalised but is still in the process of being developed by economists and other experts who would consult with the relevant stakeholders.

Making much of the fact that the NEP was formulated during his father’s administration, Malaysia’s second premier Tun Razak Hussein, Najib stressed that he would never ‘betray’ the principles behind the NEP, let alone betray Malay interests.

“It is impossible that I, the son of NEP’s founder, will betray his father’s fight. It is impossible. In my heart, I want to see the Malays rise and prosper,” said an impassioned Najib.

“I hope no one will have doubts or worry that I will not pay attention to the concerns of the Malays. As UMNO president, I will not forsake the Malays who form the majority in Malaysia,” he thundered.

Earlier in the evening, the crowd that filled the Dewan Tun Hussein hall at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur almost bristled with hostility against after a day of debates that saw speaker after speaker denouncing Najib’s NEM as an anti-Malay policy.

Among the main sponsors of the event was the Malaysian Association of Malay Automobile Importers (Pekema), whose members are still distressed over the government’s decision to stop Approved Permits for vehicle imports by 2015.

‘NEM rejected’

Kicking off the event, Malay Consultative Council (MPM) chairperson and Pasir Mas MP Ibrahim Ali in his opening speech summarised for Najib the grouses of Malay groups against his NEM before proceeding to list down their key points of contention.

“Sorry to say Datuk Seri (Najib), but the congress has rejected the NEM,” said a deadpan Ibrahim, whose speech was punctuated with cries of “Hidup Melayu!” Subsequently, more than 30 individual memorandums drafted by Malay NGOs were submitted to Najib, who was then presented with a 33-point resolution drawn up by the BEC against the NEM.

Malay Special Rights ignored,says Bumiputera Economic Congress

May 30, 2010

New Economic Model (NEM) ignores Malay Special Rights, says Bumiputera Economic Congress

By Hazlan Zakaria (May 29, 2010)

The one-day Bumiputera Economic Congress became the arena for NEM-bashing as experts slammed the New Economic Model for sidelining of Malay interests.

The Congress is organised by the Malay Consultative Council, which include Malay NGOs such as the controversial PERKASA.

National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) secretary Dr. Normah Mansur, a former University  of Malaysia don, started the ball rolling when she conceded the lack of bumiputera or Malay-specific policies in the proposed economic model soon to be finalised by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Delivering the keynote address, Normah (left) said that NEAC wanted to hear from the Congress about the need for a Malay and bumiputera agenda as it has not formulated any in the NEM.

She also stressed that the proposed NEM is not a government document but only a proposal from the economic advisory body, which effectively opened the floodgates of criticisms as panel speakers, one after another, let loose their disagreements.

Academician Kamaruddin Kachar, who chaired the panel, told the panel speakers not to be shy to tear down the NEM because the Congress was about defending the “natural rights of the Malays”.

“This is our country, pioneered by our ancestors 2,000 years ago, and defended with their blood in countless battles against invaders. Why should we be afraid? The sultans are our protectors. The Royal Malay Regiment is for the Malays.

“Should we be afraid of Samy Vellu’s son? Don’t let Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh belittle us. The Malays are not weak,” he said.

‘Special rights ignored’

To the applause and cheers of the crowd, the four-member discussion panel comprising senator Akbar Ali, former Economic Planning Unit director Hanipah Esa, economic scholar Rajini Ramlan and history professor Ramlah Adam, picked apart the policy which they argued neglected to consider the special rights of the Malays and bumiputera.

Akbar’s (left) grouses were more on the technical facets questioning what he said are the flawed basis of the NEM.

In particular, he criticised the economic policy’s over-dependence on the free market approach and the use of the single indicator of the gross domestic income, instead of a basket of indicators like household income and human development which he says would be more reflective.

He also mounted a vehement defence of the New Economic Policy and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom he said is being disparaged by the apparent attack on the economic policy which the former UMNO chief had presided over.

“The attack on NEP is actually an attack on Mahathir. He was the one who implemented it for near 20 years. These people are from the World Bank. The World Bank has always had a beef with Mahathir,” he said.

Hanipah recounted the still-fragile state of the Malays, in particular those who still need to be given protection from the other races, who are more well-versed and able in business and economic fields.

“Without clear mechanisms and action plans, the hope (to strengthen the bumiputera) will not see fruition,” she opined. Rajini said that while the NEM may help Malaysia prosper, it will incapacitate the Malays economically.”I am positive that the NEM is a long-term plan that will develop the economy, but I am pessimist about its ability to uplift the Malays.”

‘Prosperous Malaysia won’t uplift Malays’

Meanwhile, Ramlah took a more historic route, slamming the proposed economic model as breaking the promises made in the agreements signed before Merdeka.”This is an attempt to destabilise the Malay economic and political establishment,” she added, speaking of what she claimed are attempts to question the special economic rights guaranteed to the Malays.

She said that the special rights of the Malays is guaranteed in return for granting citizenship to the non-Malays.

The one-day Congress is the culmination of a series of workshops, talks, roundtable discussions and seminars by the Malay Consultative Council to scrutinise the NEM. A memorandum was later submitted to Najib, who was there to close the event tonight.The memorandum contains resolutions and recommendations passed by the congress to be included in the NEM.

Among notables at the congress were PERKASA president Ibrahim Ali, Dewan Negara president and Malay Consultative Council co-founder Abu Zahar Ujang alongside academicians, NGO representatives and veteran Malays.

Conspicuously absent, however, were bumiputera representatives from government-linked companies and the corporate world.

Malay coalition wants Najib to revamp NEM

NEM not finalised yet, says Najib

PM: Developed status by 2020 still on target


These so-called Malay nationalists failed to realise that the world is increasingly interdependent, open and competitive and that the Malaysian government cannot be asked to help the Malays in terms of subsidies , handouts and bailouts on an unending basis. The community itself which now has millionaires, entrepreneurs, professionals and skilled workers must learn to mobilise its talents and creativity to shape its own destiny in a competitive world.

PERKASA and other Malay NGOs are sectarian and racist in their approach. They should be made to realise the NEM is not against Article 153 and related provisions in our constitution. These are not under threat as they are accepted by all citizens. Why create a bogeyman, if not for personal agenda?

The old NEP now longer works, although it had been successful in creating Malay human capital. It is now dysfunctional.  It is time to change our approach to affirmative action. It is time to put this Malay intellectual capital to good use.

The Malays can compete, if they are prepared to liberate themselves from total dependence on government. Forget the easy option; in fact, there is none. Nothing is given; everything is obtained through hard work, and sacrifice. The old adage which says, “you reap what you sow” is apt here.

The NEM document notes that ” Malaysia has reached a defining moment in its development path. It risks being left behind or worse still,suffering a reversal in living standards, unless it implements far reaching and comprehensive reforms. Economic policies to date are no longer keeping Malaysia competitive enough regionally and globally to generate sufficient growth”.  If we wish to prosper, then we must think and act differently. The experts at the NEAC led by Tan Sri Amirsham Aziz produced a document which  requires rational discourse and careful consideration, not politiking.

We should be addressing the issues of growth and competitiveness. We are talking about the future for the Malaysian Malays and other Malaysians in a competitive economic environment; we must not cling to the past.  In the wider context of national unity and solidarity, we cannot be held hostage to a small group of Malays who want the old NEP system to remain because it has been beneficial to them in the past. This is the time to move on ; we cannot be prisoners to policies that have weakened the Malays in general.

Prime Minister Najib, I urge you not to give in to these extreme elements in the Malay community and your own party, UMNO. You must move forward with your NEM if you wish to make Malaysia great again. Competency, meritocracy and integrity must be the foundation of your administration.

I personally have never underestimated the capacity of the Malays to adjust and adapt to changing and challenging times. I believe we can compete and win. What we need is a strong belief in ourselves. The Malays of old (e.g, the Malays of the Malacca Sultanate) did not have the NEP yet they were able to compete and trade beyond their shores and hold their own at home against others. We need that can do spirit.  We must believe in ourselves. Yes, we can.—Din Merican

Khalid Ibrahim stays as Menteri Besar and Selangor PKR Chief

May 30, 2009

Selangor Menteri Besar stays as State PKR Chief, says President Wan Azizah

S Pathmawathy (May 29, 2010)

PKR has no plans to replace Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim as the party’s Selangor chief, said PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

“We have no plans to review his position in the party,” she told a press conference in Kota Bharu after issuing the presidential address to PKR’s national congress.

Also present were PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali and DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang.

On PAS’ part, said Mustafa, the party has “full trust” in the Selangor MB as he has been doing a good job. “The question does not arise at all, but we have to do stock-checking as we are already in the middle of the year,” added Lim Kit Siang.

Wan Azizah  was fielding questions on Khalid’s tenure following rumours of a rift between him and PKR vice-president and Gombak MP Mohd Azmin Ali, and that both could not see eye-to-eye on certain matters.

Other key leaders within the party had also purportedly been sceptical of Khalid’s ability to head the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign and his general lack of political acumen.

Lacking skills?

The tensions supposedly ruptured last month in the run-up to the Hulu Selangor polls, after Azmin voiced disagreement with Khalid, who is also PKR’s treasurer-general, over campaign strategy issues.

Azmin (right), however, has rubbished the rumours, and pointed out that it was he who proposed the former Guthrie CEO to be the party’s election director for the by-election.

It was only on the question of when the campaign was to start that their minds did not meet, he added. Earlier in her address to the party, Wan Azizah praised Khalid who she said had borne heavy responsibilities since leading the Selangor government as its Menteri Besar.

“He has defended the principles of transparency and accountability by chipping away at the wastage and corruption that have become part of UMNO’s culture.

“The courage of the Selangor government in introducing SELCAT – exposing all (the state government workings) – is (the type of) renewal that we can be proud of,” said Wan Azizah in reference to the state assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Notwithstanding Khalid’s leadership, the PKR top gun warned party members and leaders – especially the excos in Pakatan-Rakyat-led state governments – to defend their menteri besar and chief minister.

While the Selangor government is firm, she said, it is under pressure from UMNO leaders’ plots “to sabotage and seize the Selangor state” from the Pakatan coalition.

“We need to be aware of their agenda,” she added.Nonetheless, said Wan Azizah, congratulations are in order for Khalid and the other Pakatan leaders in the Selangor government who have toiled to administer the state well despite being faced with internal and external challlenges and hindrances.

“Recognition (of good work) does not come free. The Selangor government must continue upholding the aspirations of the people, the aspirations of the party and of Pakatan.”

Subsidy Cuts will be good for Malaysia

May 29, 2010

Subsidy cuts will be good for Malaysia

The proposed subsidy cuts are turning out to be a political football but experts are more optimistic, saying they would boost competitiveness and appeal to foreign investors.

Dr Yeah Kim Leng, chief economist for RAM Holdings, said the long-overdue subsidy rationalisation plan had come at the right time. “The Malaysian economy has, in a way, rebounded so the implementation would not be that burdensome to the people,” he said.

“With inflation below the trend level of 3 per cent, the price impact will not exert a major concern because it will not result in runaway prices.”

He cited three major benefits of subsidy reforms, the first of which was greater efficiency gains overall.“Subsidy savings, instead of supporting consumption, can be directed to productive spending such as education, R&D, healthcare and public transportation,” he said.

The second benefit would be enhancement of the efficiency of the economy.“As we move closer to market prices, supply and demand becomes more market-responsive [and are] driven by price signals,” he said.

Yeah contended that this will allow transport services and basic food industries to be more competitive. “They will become more efficient because they will respond more efficiently to price changes,” the economist said, arguing that non-subsidised prices for goods and services will force resources to be allocated with minimum wastage.

The third and final benefit would be a more resilient economy, strengthened by lower fiscal deficit and government debt. “The lesson of the ‘Greek tragedy’ is quite stark and very relevant in our current context,” he warned.

“We will [need to] build up our fiscal bullets in order to face future shocks,” Yeah said, with the understanding that a resilient economy will be able to withstand jumps in oil prices or even a global recession.

He pointed out that the government does not have the resources at the moment to engage in counter-cyclical spending, saying that greater fiscal resilience will give it more flexibility to do so. Yeah explained that the removal of subsidies will also reduce macro-imbalances, which are of “major concern” to foreign investors. “Domestic investors will also lose confidence in the economy if debt levels build up,” he added.

Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam, a former Finance Ministry deputy secretary-general, also welcomed the cuts, saying they will do the economy much good.

“Finally, reality has set in… This will definitely have a positive and constructive effect on the economy and the future prospects of Malaysia’s socio-economic and political stability.

“The reduction of subsidies can be painful but it is necessary otherwise the economy will fail and decline.” He said subsidy reform will boost confidence in the economic management of the country and make it more appealing to foreign and domestic investors.

“These more realistic policies will encourage them to look at Malaysia’s economy as a good prospect in the long term and not only the short term.”

He added that the removal of subsidies will aid sustainable development and help maintain our standing in the IMD Competitiveness Index at a high level. Navaratnam also took the opportunity to criticise the “old NEP (New Economic Policy) mentality”, which he said was not positive or competitive enough.

“The subsidies syndrome, which is not only present in the price of commodities but right through the system, will take a heavy blow. [This will help] improve the mindset of Malaysians.”

He called the subsidy mentality a “cancer” that must be treated drastically. “If you don’t do [this] you will die in the long term… For too long we have neglected these basic problems in economic management,” he said.“That is why it is so difficult now to try and reduce what you gave so generously without good reason.”

Navaratnam also cautioned against Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s recent apocalyptic warning about the state of the country’s budget deficit, saying Idris might have exaggerated its severity.

“He has taken the situation as static when, in fact, while debt can be high, it is a proportion of the GDP that matters,” Navaratnam said.

“He has to take into account that the economy will be growing in its budget revenue and balance of payment receipts… The proportion of debt servicing to GDP need not be as dismal as he claims it out to be.”

Yesterday, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had warned that Malaysia risked ending up like Greece if it did not stop “living beyond our means”, noting that the country could go bankrupt by 2019 if the government continues spending on subsidies at the current rate of 12.5 per cent a year.

However, Navaratnam said: “Nevertheless, his warning is well taken and the image of Greece could well be adapted as a possible scenario if we continue with the subsidy mentality in overall economic management.”

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

May 29, 2010

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

A coalition of pro-press freedom NGOs are planning a wake entitled the “528 Tak Nak Potong Night” today, (May 28, 2010) to commemorate what they claim is the day that press freedom in Malaysia died.

The NGOs organising the event include the 528 Media Action Group, Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).

NONESelf-exiled controversial blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin (right) himself is set to make a cameo pre-recorded video appearance, scheduled to “Speak Out and Loud” at tonight’s anti-censorship festivities, according to the organisers.

The numbers 528 were picked, said the NGOs, to represent May 28, marking the takeover of Chinese dailies by Nanyang Press Holdings in 2001, effectively putting them under the thumb of the ruling coalition’s Chinese based component party MCA, through its investment arm Huaren Holdings.”

Something which was rinsed and repeated by Umno’s takeover of the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia and its widely speculated indirect ownership of other mainstream media, most notably the News Straits Times and Berita Harian.

From then onwards, the groups claimed in an emailed press statement, the freedom of the mainstream media to report independently deteriorated further, culminating in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s tightened executive control over them during the Hulu Selangor and Sibu by-elections.

According to the statement, the 8pm event at the Jeffrey Cheah Hall in the KLSCAH building, will feature a special night of performance and screening of censored and banned materials including books, films and art work, or as the organiser labelled them, “potong” materials.

NONEThese include Amir Muhammad’s controversial “18MP” video, former RTM producer Chou Z Lam’s (left) axed Bakun documentary, Pusat Komas’ “Selepas Tsunami” video seized by the government in Sibu, and Lim Sow Seng’s “Lonely KL Press”.

While banned publications showcased that night will include political cartoonist Zunar’s “Gedung Kartun” and Wong Eng Leong’s “Heaven of Demons”.

Joining this are Sharon Chin’s “Banned Books and Other Monsters” exhibition and Liew Teck Leong’s exhibit on “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984″.

The night will also showcase thought-provoking artworks by Fahmi Reza, Five Arts Centre, Tan Hui Koon, Chai Chang Hwang, Satu Hulu Action Group and Teh Hong Seng.

Propaganda’ disobedience

The NGO have also issued an open invitation to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) President Norila Daud, the Group Managing Director of Sinchew Media Group Liew Chen Chuan as well as journalists, editors and citizens of the Klang Valley to participate in a symbolic action of abolishing the infamous Printing Presses and Publications Act by removing a nail each from the “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984″ artwork.

As a form of protest against what they claim to be the heavy hand of government media censorship, the NGOs are also inviting the public to join in their fight via simple acts of civil disobedience.

NONEThose unable to join the protests in various forms like, flash mobs or writing complaints send to the mainstream media were urged to stop watching and reading what they call “propaganda” media and switch off their TV sets for an hour from 8pm-9pm as well as refrain from buying newspapers today.

‘Media complicity’

The group added that while May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and May is press freedom month, in Malaysia, the relevance of this day was reinforced by two exposés of self-censorship in TV stations, one after the other.

NTV7 censored Editor’s Time, a current affairs programme, in reaction to a text message complaining about the show.

The former producer of the programme, Joshua Wong Ngee Choong, who resigned on April 20 over this self-censorship by NTV7, claimed that the text message was forwarded from the Prime Minister’s Department to his supervisor.

Despite Wong’s explanation that allegations in the complaint were baseless, the TV station placed restrictions on the programme.

No discussions on political issues or the coming Hulu Selangor by-election were allowed while opposition politicians were banned from the popular forum. Just a week later, state owned TV channel TV2, axed a current affairs series after running the first couple of episodes.

The programme’s producer Chou alleged that his 10-episode daily programme on the social and economic plight of indigenous people displaced by the Bakun Dam project, was shelved to prevent negative feedback ahead of a by-election in the state.

The NGOs contended that Chou’s exposé paints a stark picture of media complicity to deprive the public of their right to information citing distress that in both cases, a by-election was cited as the excuse for abandoning discussion of current affairs. This goes against the public’s right to be properly informed before discharging their duty to vote.

PKR to go for Quality

May 28, 2010

PKR must plumb for Quality

by Terence Netto (May 27, 2010)

PKR deputy president Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali today opened the Wanita and Youth divisions of the party with a call to create a leadership corps drawn from within a pool of cadres imbued with the highest ideals.

pkr national congress 301108 syed husin aliSpeaking to a joint assembly of both wings of the party at the Kelantan Trade Centre in Kota Bharu tonight, the veteran politician said the process of creation of this leadership corps must be refined and closely monitored.

“This process must entail immersion in leadership training and party organisation courses and also require work among the masses such that the latter are geared towards organising and fighting for their rights,” said Syed Husin.

He said PKR did not require strength in numbers so much as quality of membership. “We need members who are of high quality from the standpoint of discipline, political awareness and involvement.

“We need members who understand, uphold and adhere to the basis of the party’s struggle to the point where they do not lose their compass even when they find themselves alone,” he said.

Giving no hint that this would be his last speech to a party assembly as deputy president, the former academician offered to help out in the process of leadership training, thus hedging the question of his intended retirement this year.

Syed Husin had earlier this year hinted that he would not defend his post at party elections scheduled to be held at a special assembly towards year’s end.

The hint raised fears of a potentially divisive contest for the deputy presidency that he has held since the party he led, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, merged with Parti Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2002.

Alluding to the issue of defections from PKR, a phenomenon that has marred the party’s image over the past year, Syed Husin told the assembly that he viewed the entire situation as a “cleansing process”.

He noted that every major political party in Malaysia had experienced the phenomenon of defections at various points in their history, observing that several had gone on to higher levels of strength and accomplishment.

Syed Husin said a sure way of preventing defections from the party was to marinate members in the party’s ideology.

Building blocks of party’s ideology

He acknowledged that PKR had yet to fully formulate an ideology because of what he described as its “rainbow” beginnings.

Syed Husin said the party was formed out of an assembly of members who originated from different political backgrounds, including some who had no previous experience of politics. He said this meant that many members with a political past found it difficult to trim their sails to fit PKR’s but that those without such a past were open to molding. Thus this made courses and training for members a matter of necessity.

Syed Husin said the party’s ideology should be formulated from the building blocks of its struggle for justice for all Malaysians.

He cited the building blocks as justice for all, concern for people’s welfare, forging a united nation, and promotion of moral and ethical values for national well-being. He said PKR could not go wrong if it held unswervingly firm to this basis of its struggle.

Barry Wain at University of Malaya

May 28, 2010

Barry Wain provides insights on Mahathir at University of Malaya

by Hafiz Yatim

What was supposed to be a highbrow discussion of Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent times led by the author himself at the nation’s oldest university turned out to be a critical session on the Fourth prime minister.

Wain (below), started yesterday’s evening session in University of Malaya with recounting his fascination in writing about Mahathir, owing to his interests in Southeast Asia and the rise of dominant political figures here like Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Suharto (Indonesia), Sihanouk and Hun Sen (Cambodia) and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore).

NONE“As Malaysia was a rising Southeast Asian country, I thought it would be fruitful to write on Mahathir. I had interviewed the Fourth prime minister, three times before writing this book.”

One of the lesser known things, Wain, 65, disclosed to the 100 plus audience that despite Mahathir being known to be anti-American, the former premier was agreeable to the country signing an agreement with the United States to allow the US army to conduct jungle warfare training in Johor.

Mahathir, the author said, had opposed the presence of the American 7th fleet in Singapore, but he did not make a public disclosure of 1984 agreement.

Wain, a former Asian Wall Street Journal editor said this showed the two contrasting characters of the Malaysia’s Fourth prime minister.  “Despite Mahathir’s passion for politics, such matters were never discussed at home,” he said, adding he verified this fact with Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the former premier’s wife.

“Hasmah said politics was never discussed at home. Even when Mahathir had written the infamous letter calling for the first premier Tunku Abdul Rahman’s resignation following the 1969 racial riots , the matter was not made known to her or the family,” he said.

It was as if Mahathir had compartmentalised his life, said Wain in providing an insight into Malaysia’s long serving Prime Minister. Wain had mentioned this compartmentalised thinking in an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini. He also said while Mahathir was bent on the physical development of Malaysia, not much was centered on human capital development of the country.

Ong: Conduct research on brain drain

Political analyst, Ong Kian Ming, one of the panelist who reviewed the book concurred with Wain, saying that studies should be conducted on this issue.

“For example, the Public Services Department spent a lot in awarding scholarships to Malaysians for overseas studies. However, when they return, do they work or contribute their best minds to the government and civil service?” he asked.

“I can say 99 percent of them are working outside the government. As a result the civil service here is still incompetent.”

Ong, who had just completed reading his PHD in Political Science at Duke University in the US, said why can’t Malaysia emulate her southern neighbour ,Singapore, in that the best minds are all in the government sector or in government- owned companies.

Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, another panelist agreed that despite all the harping on the New Economic Policy, Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister, was not used properly to achieve its goals. “He wanted to produce Malay millionaires but instead of helping others, they in turn kept the money and had gone richer,” he said.

Gomez said if we look at the top seven companies in Bursa Malaysia, one can see how many are majority owned by Bumiputeras.

The professor in economics also said what was important in the New Economic Model, introduced by Najib was the aim to reduce all leakages while focusing on capital development.

Wain: Investments not coming in

Wain noted that foreign investments to Malaysia had dropped compared with the 1990’s. “What is a source of concern is also that Malaysian businessmen themselves are not reinvesting in Malaysia but are doing so in some other countries. Money is not coming in but instead it is going out.”

“The recent 10.1 GDP first quarter growth was as a result of government spending.”idris jala pemandu subsidiesHe agreed with the findings released by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala (right), yesterday that if subsidies were not cut, the country would go bankrupt.

Wain, who was also the now defunct Far Eastern Economic Review editor said besides subsidies, the Goods and Services Tax would have to be imposed to widen the broad base of taxes, through which the government could boost its revenue.

The author was also asked his opinion on why Mahathir supported Perkasa, as it goes against his mooted idea of Vision 2020, of seeing the many races in Malaysia unify, and to which the reply was succinct: the former premier was a person who likes the limelight. “He craves media attention and that is the reason why,” he said.

Responding to another question whether he would write a second book on Mahathir since some topics like Sabah and Sarawak and aspects of his children were not covered extensively, the author said no, as his second would be on Southeast Asia.

Wain, said a sixth reprint of the book is in the works and that 4,000 copies of the books were sold out in Malaysia since the ban was lifted on April 23, and another 5,000 copies had just been recently ordered.

He also said that he had given a copy of his book to Mahathir but had not either personally met him or knew his response to it.

Mindset and Cultural Change Needed for GTP success

May 27, 2010

Mindset and Cultural Change needed, says Chief Secretary to the Government

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan said today the utmost essence to the success of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) is the mindset and cultural change of the people.

He said the mindset and attitude of Malaysians would also determine the future success of the government, because although the government could set visions and policies, it was society in its collective vehicle that could deliver it.

“It would be naive to even suggest that by virtue of the blueprints of the plans and commitments set out by the government, the country will be a developed country by a certain timeline.

“GTP is only an engine. So is the 10th Malaysia Plan, so is the New Economic Model. All of these initiatives must see a corresponding mindset and cultural change in our society,” he said in his keynote address at the national conference on Improving Accountability and Public Service Management Efficiency here.

The one-day event was organised by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Institute Sultan Iskandar (ISI). Sidek also stressed that Malaysians must not be complacent with what they have achieved but to continue setting new benchmarks.

This was important as the world today was malleable and fluid to the surrounding environment, he said. “We must never begin to think that we have arrived, for when we start thinking so, the seeds of arrogance and complacency will seep into our minds, our way of life, our society.

“Our own attitudes to work and life will define where and how far our country can go,” he added. He said the people must also be agile enough to adapt, adjust, adopt and rise to the occasion as well as move beyond comfort zones and always push the limits.

“We can no longer live on the philosophy of ‘leave me alone’ or ‘live and let live’. To make it collectively as a nation, we must today live by the motto ‘live and help live’.”

In this regard, Sidek called for co-operation from all sectors in society to work together. “If we want to be relevant, and continue to be relevant, we have simply got to be extraordinary and unusual.

“Ultimately, we can only be so if the people want to make it so. Governments and markets cannot do it singularly. Media and NGOs must assume their due roles in nation building too for the collective good of all,” he added. — Bernama

Manage Our Public Expenditure prudently

May 27, 2010

Comment: Yes, Minister Idris Jala is justified in warning all of us about our fiscal deficit which is increasing rapidly. But just asking us citizens to do away with subsidies is not sufficient. At best, it is a good start towards breaking our subsidy mentality. More needs to be done to cut our fiscal deficit. We need to get our financial house in order. The principle  to be observed should be that government must maximize returns on the tax ringgit.

I urge our  intelligent Minister  and his team to look at public expenditure with a very critical eye. The salaries and perks enjoyed by civil servants must match their productivity. Right now, their productivity is shockingly low and yet the government continues to be generous with CUEPECS, especially ahead of General Elections. This has got to stop  as the government cannot continue to be a generous employer. Bonus and increments must be performance based.

Serious attempts must be made to manage public expenditure so that the government can drastically reduce wastage. It is time to adopt proper procurement and open tendering procedures; leakages can be detected early  if we have a good system in place, and those caught with their hands in the till, so to speak, should b penalized and in extreme cases they should face the full brunt of law for breach of trust and corruption. In this regard, a strong case can be made for a thorough review of the existing planning and budgeting system so that it is in sync with the KPIs that have been introduced in ministries and government agencies.

So far, the Government gets an A for raising taxes and other revenues, but I will award an E for  its management of public expenditure. Budgetary discipline in matching revenue and cost is an absolute must, if  government is to control its burgeoning public spending and reduce the fiscal deficit. –Din Merican

Malaysia risks becoming another Greece says Idris Jala

Malaysia risks becoming the next Greece unless voters swallow subsidy cuts that will see the price of petrol, food, electricity and other staples rise, a government minister warned today. A government think-tank charged with producing plans to cut the country’s subsidy bill presented its plans to the public in  a bid to win acceptance for painful cuts, which have yet to be voted on by the government.

NONEIdris Jala, a minister in the prime minister’s department who heads the body advising the government, said that Malaysia’s debt would rise to 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2019 from 54 percent of GDP at present without the cuts.

“We don’t want to end up as another Greece,” he told a roadshow, referring to the European Union member whose debt woes have unsettled global markets.

Malaysia spent 15.3 percent of total federal government operating spending on subsidies in its 2009 budget when its deficit surged to a 20-year high of 7 percent of GDP.

The cabinet discussed the subsidy proposals on Wednesday, but any decision on cuts could be months away, a government source told Reuters.

Political analysts and economists say the failure of the government to push through previous subsidy cuts casts doubt on whether it can do it this time, especially with state elections looming in Sarawak, a government stronghold that is under threat from the opposition.

The proposals presented would see petrol prices for the benchmark RON95 blend rise by an initial 15 sen per litre from their current price at some stage this year.

The benchmark RON 95 grade currently costs RM1.80 ringgit per litre.  Under the proposals presented by the advisory body, the price of petrol would be hiked some time this year followed by two price hikes totalling 20 sen per litre in 2011 and two more totaling 20 sen per litre in 2012.

In 2013-2015, the price hikes would slow and by the end of 2015, the price of RON95 would stand at RM2.60 per litre, according to the plans that have yet to be approved by the government.  The forecasts were based on a crude oil price forecast of $73.06 per barrel for 2011 and $79.41-$94.52 for 2013-2015.

- Reuters

Malaysia’s Richest: Robert Kuok and Ananda Krishnan

May 27, 2010

Malaysia’s Richest according to Forbes: Robert Kuok and Ananda Krishnan top the list

by Suzanne Nam (

The rebounding Malaysian economy expanded 10% in the first quarter of 2010, its highest growth rate in a decade. The fortunes of the country’s 40 wealthiest are rising, too. They’re worth a total of $51 billion, up from $36 billion a year ago and even higher than the $46 billion they were collectively worth in 2008.

All but three are now richer. Goh Peng Ooi enjoyed the biggest percentage jump, up 280%, after he sold two of his private companies to his listed Silverlake Axis. The overall gains are in step with the 32% rise in the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index and the Malaysian ringgit’s 11% increase against the U.S. dollar, the currency in which net worths are measured.

Robert Kuok and Ananda Krishnan (see list below) retained their status as the country’s two richest men. They are worth a combined $20.1 billion, or 40% of the top 40’s wealth. The country’s 10 billionaires are worth $30 billion, accounting for 59% of the total.

Vincent Tan is back in the billionaires club this year after a one-year hiatus. His fortune doubled thanks to a jump in his Berjaya stocks. He’s spending some of his money on British football club Cardiff City. Another big gainer was Genting’s Lim Kok Thay, who is gambling $5 billion on his company’s newly opened Singapore resort and casino.

Newcomers include self-made building contractor A.K. Nathan and brothers Shahril and Shahriman Shamsuddin, who get most of their money from oil-and-gas outfit SapuraCrest Petroleum, shares of which have more than doubled since 2009.

In cases where family members work together and have shares in the same businesses, we’ve combined their fortunes into one listing. That’s why the Shamsuddin brothers, who split the fortune equally, appear together. Same goes for brothers Lee Oi Hian and Lee Hau Hian and father-and-son forestry tycoons Yaw Teck Seng and Yaw Chee Ming, who previously had been listed separately.

Three people are back on the list after having fallen off previously. The most notable is the prime minister’s brother, Nazir Razak, the head of Malaysia’s second-largest financial services firm, CIMB Group. Razak who barely missed the cut last year.

Among the five dropoffs is Vinod Sekhar, who runs Green Rubber, which recycles used tires. The company had previously been valued based on what private investors had paid for shares in anticipation of a public offering; that IPO still hasn’t happened.

Other drop-offs included Australian-educated engineer Hamdan Mohamad of infrastructure conglomerate Ranhil, Tan Teong Hean, the former head of Southern Bank, who sold out in 2006, and Tiah Thee Kian, who cofounded TA Enterprise.

Malaysia’s Top 40

Note: Methodology

The list was compiled from information obtained from individuals, stock exchanges, public documents and analysts. Privately held fortunes were estimated using financial statements available through the Companies Commission of Malaysia. All valuations were calculated using May 14 stock prices and exchange rates. Unlike our Billionaires List, Malaysia’s Richest includes family fortunes, such as that of Lee Kim Hua and her family.

Netto on Dr. Goh Keng Swee

May 26, 2010

Netto on Dr. Goh Keng Swee

COMMENT Reading the encomiums to Dr Goh Keng Swee, the man his eulogists say was principally responsible for the templates that undergird modern Singapore, one is prompted to recall a discussion in the now defunct, Far Eastern Economic Review, on corruption.

The focus on corruption in a mid-1983 edition of the respected weekly stirred interest because several countries in East Asia were, at that juncture, on the cusp of taking the path towards economic development via infusions of foreign direct investment.

The issue of corruption – what attitude to take towards it, what degree of it to tolerate – was mulled over in the intellectual debate on what paths to take in the quest for economic development of the region.

Goh Keng SweeThe Review, as befit its status then as the must-read journal of governing circles in the region, rounded in on the topic in its highly regarded section, Fifth Column, whose editorial gravitas was equivalent to that of op-ed pages in stellar dailies in western capitals.

In its focus on corruption, the Review adverted to Goh’s arguments on the subject. The Singapore polymath had counseled zero tolerance. His arguments were espoused in the Harry G Johnson Memorial Lecture he gave to the Royal Society, London, in July 1983 on ‘Public Administration and Economic Development in LDCs (least developed countries)’.

The nub of Goh’s arguments, cited by the Review, was that corruption would add to costs, make national economies less competitive, and erode the moral and intellectual fiber of the civil service that must conceive, implement and monitor development policies.

Goh also argued that top civil servants ought to be remunerated at rates that were near to the levels enjoyed by captains of industry and top performers in the professions. His rationale: that was the only way to retain talent in the civil service and prevent a drain to the private sector.

Huntington: Corruption inevitable

The arguments arrayed against Goh’s rather puritanical stance were variations on the theme propounded by Samuel Huntington in his book ‘Political Order’, although the author was not cited in the article in Fifth Column.

samuel huntingtonHuntington is more renowned for his controversial clash of civilisations theory which saw conflict between cultures as the driving force of history following the fall of communism in 1989.

That thesis had diverted attention away from Huntington’s other, more compelling if less controversial theories, like the one on corruption as being inevitable in societies that are newly modernising.

The views in the Review article that were contrary to Goh’s essentially rehashed the ones advanced by Huntington in ‘Political Order': in societies that have just begun to modernise, corruption in moderate doses can overcome unresponsive bureaucracy and be an instrument for progress.

Huntington pointed to 18th century England, at the onset of the Industrial Revolution, as a time when there were high levels of corruption, as was the case in 19th century America when the forces spurring economic growth – utilities, railway companies and new corporations – were the same ones that were handing out bribes to city councils to lubricate paths to huge profits and expansion.

Samuel Huntington political orderHuntington held that corruption at this stage of development was useful in providing new groups with the means to be assimilated into the system.

Corruption, Huntington noted, was a less extreme form of alienation than violence: “He who corrupts a system’s police officers was more likely to identify with the system than he who storms the system’s police stations.”

The high-minded would find it easy to disparage arguments that held corruption to be a tolerable and passing phase in the process of economic modernisation of underdeveloped societies.

But, said Huntington, the seamy tradeoffs for spurring growth and stability are necessary in conditions where people’s loyalties are focused on groups and tribes rather than on institutions and processes.

Loyalty and faith in institutions and their processes are a mark of societies that have arrived at some level of maturation in its constitutional forms.

Zero tolerance

This recall of a near three-decade old shakedown of arguments about corruption – its causes and what attitude to take towards it – is useful not just for proof of the validity of Goh’s counsel of zero tolerance, but also of the pitfalls when, as in Malaysia’s case, we opted for some tolerance of it that was not guarded enough.

The slack we allowed corruption has eventuated in an broad infection of the body politic by a bacillus that now sees low-cost houses built for the poor being appropriated by the well-heeled, to the phenomenon of gigantic commissions paid out of arms procurement contracts to local brokers.

In other words, no sphere is too low an opportunity to be exploited by some and no upper limit is recognised by others.

Once the hand is inserted in the cookie jar, there’s no telling when a halt can be called to the temptation towards serial behaviour.

Dr Goh Keng Swee served as Singapore’s deputy prime minister between 1973 and 1984. He passed away on May 14, 2010 at the age of 91.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.

Who is Samuel Huntington?

Dr Phua gave me this (below) for the benefit of all of us:

The meaning of Huntington

28th February 2009  —  Issue 155 Free entry

Samuel Huntington died a pariah among America’s intellectual elite. It’s because he was normal

Samuel Huntington…. He is assured a place in the pantheon of modern “big idea” thinkers, alongside his student Francis Fukuyama. But few in this group were as controversial, or as consistently unpopular among their peers. Huntington was accused of everything from militarism to nativism.

Noam Chomsky attacked him in the pages of the New York Review of Books over the bombing of Vietnam, and later described the Clash of Civilizations (1996)—Huntington’s most famous book—as a tool for the American elite to “control people.” He was denied membership of America’s prestigious National Academy of Sciences twice.

Why did he raise such hackles? Certainly, he was politically difficult to pin down. A lifelong Democrat, who worked for the ultra-liberal presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and voted for John Kerry in 2004, he was also a consistent conservative who backed the Vietnam war. His brief military career left an indelible mark, nowhere more evident than in his first book, The Soldier and the State (1957), which extols the ethos of the elite West Point military academy. At West Point, he wrote, “collective will supplants individual whim”—a latter-day Sparta in the midst of a civilian Babylon. With this book, his destiny to rile liberal colleagues was well underway; one reviewer portrayed him as a third-rate Mussolini.

Both Wasp and Episcopalian, he spent nearly half a century at Harvard and is descended from several generations of Harvard men. But his nationalism was political, not ethnic, valuing institutions like the military and the constitution rather than a timeless landscape or heroic ancestors. In The Promise of Disharmony (1981), he writes of American identity as an idea. America lacked class conflict, so had no need for the mystical folk nationalism of Europe. Wasps and immigrants alike, he argued, were eager to throw off their past and forge a liberal nation. Not a word did he write romanticising puritans or pioneers.

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.

Right up to the fall of communism, Huntington’s thinking bore the impress of cold war neoconservatism. He believed that non-western culture presented few obstacles to the spread of democracy. But the collapse of communism shook this view, generating in him a new appreciation for the power of culture. Four years after the fall of the Berlin wall he penned his signature article, “The Clash of Civilizations,” later turned into the book of the same name, arguing that cultural conflict would define the post-cold war era.

Huntington had a cyclical view of history, and feared a decline of America and the west through hubris and decay. In The Clash of Civilizations he argued trenchantly for a revival of collective spirit, and a rejection of both multiculturalism at home and neoconservative universalism abroad. Better, he came to think, to keep America strong by respecting differences overseas while striving to renew western civilisation at home.

It was not until 9/11 that Huntington became a household name; his “clash of civilisations” catchphrase adopted by everyone from southern Sudanese rebels to Silvio Berlusconi. It also ignited controversy. From the left, Edward Said claimed that a “clash of ignorance” was painting Islam as a monolith. From the right, neoconservatives were dismayed at Huntington’s rejection of their universalist incursions into Muslim lands. (His opposition to the second Iraq war, inconvenient and largely ignored by liberal critics, is quite consistent with his scepticism of the universalisms of both left and right.)

In his final polemic, Who Are We? (2004), Huntington raised the stakes by urging a renewal of American cultural nationalism. Hispanics had overtaken African-Americans as the largest minority, and as a result multiculturalism was challenging the nation’s anglo-protestant cultural centre. In response, Huntington rethought his exceptionalist, creedal nationalism to include a cultural component.

In taking this step, he resembled his fellow Wasp New Yorker, the late historian John Higham, who worried that the volume and geographic concentration of Hispanics differed from the dispersed, polyglot influxes of the past. Huntington’s fears of Latino secession are surely misplaced, but his concern for America’s cultural centre and his disdain for its cosmopolitan absentee elite resonated with many Americans. The nation’s intellectual elites were less amused, describing his book as racist and ensuring him virtual pariah status at Harvard and beyond.

This should not stop us recognising his achievements. He provides a much needed cultural corrective to both “realist” international relations theories, and Francis Fukuyama’s liberal internationalist The End of History. Ultimately, however, Huntington’s civilisational argument fails as a clear explanation of state behaviour, mostly because people cannot imagine their civilisation as they can their nation.

People distinguish themselves from next door nations but not distant cultural blocs. Shared civilisational identity can count when alliances between countries are formed, but it is far from decisive. Islam and western Christendom might seem to be partial exceptions to this rule, but even the umma and EU remain too abstract for most.

An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity. But his estrangement from the American elite merely confirms him as normal: the median postwar American voter has always identified as a conservative Democrat.

A tiny band of liberal nationalist centrists—figures like Michael Lind or the recently deceased Arthur Schlesinger Jr—are his true kindred spirits. In arguing for a less overbearing America that should just be itself, they, more than his illustrious students, define Huntington’s legacy.