Inaugural Address of the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines

June 30, 2010

The Inaugural Address of the 15th President of the Republic of The Philippines, Benigno Aquino III

His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta, Former President Fidel V. Ramos, Former President Joseph Estrada, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and members of the Senate, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and members of the House, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the foreign delegations, Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps, fellow colleagues in government, aking mga kababayan.

My presence here today is proof that you are my true strength. I never expected that I will be here taking my oath of office before you, as your president. I never imagined that I would be tasked with continuing the mission of my parents. I never entertained the ambition to be the symbol of hope, and to inherit the problems of our nation.

I had a simple goal in life: to be true to my parents and our country as an honorable son, a caring brother, and a good citizen.

My father offered his life so our democracy could live. My mother devoted her life to nurturing that democracy. I will dedicate my life to making our democracy reach its fullest potential: that of ensuring equality for all. My family has sacrificed much and I am willing to do this again if necessary.

Although I was born to famous parents, I know and feel the problems of ordinary citizens. We all know what it is like to have a government that plays deaf and dumb. We know what it is like to be denied justice, to be ignored by those in whom we placed our trust and tasked to become our advocates.

Have you ever been ignored by the very government you helped put in power? I have. Have you had to endure being rudely shoved aside by the siren-blaring escorts of those who love to display their position and power over you? I have, too. Have you experienced exasperation and anger at a government that instead of serving you, needs to be endured by you? So have I.

I am like you. Many of our countrymen have already voted with their feet – migrating to other countries in search of change or tranquility. They have endured hardship, risked their lives because they believe that compared to their current state here, there is more hope for them in another country, no matter how bleak it may be. In moments when I thought of only my own welfare, I also wondered – is it possible that I can find the peace and quiet that I crave in another country? Is our government beyond redemption? Has it been written that the Filipino’s lot is merely to suffer?

Today marks the end of a regime indifferent to the appeals of the people. It is not Noynoy who found a way. You are the reason why the silent suffering of the nation is about to end. This is the beginning of my burden, but if many of us will bear the cross we will lift it, no matter how heavy it is.

Through good governance in the coming years, we will lessen our problems. The destiny of the Filipino will return to its rightful place, and as each year passes, the Filipino’s problems will continue to lessen with the assurance of progress in their lives.

We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation.

This mandate is the social contract that we agreed upon. It is the promise I made during the campaign, which you accepted on election day.

During the campaign we said, “If no one is corrupt, no one will be poor.” That is no mere slogan for posters — it is the defining principle that will serve as the foundation of our administration.

Our foremost duty is to lift the nation from poverty through honest and effective governance.

The first step is to have leaders who are ethical, honest, and true public servants. I will set the example. I will strive to be a good model. I will not break the trust you have placed in me. I will ensure that this, too, will be the advocacy of my Cabinet and those who will join our government.

I do not believe that all of those who serve in our government are corrupt. In truth, the majority of them are honest. They joined government to serve and do good. Starting today, they will have the opportunity to show that they have what it takes. I am counting on them to help fight corruption within the bureaucracy.

To those who have been put in positions by unlawful means, this is my warning: we will begin earning back the trust of our people by reviewing midnight appointments. Let this serve as a warning to those who intend to continue the crooked ways that have become the norm for too long.

To our impoverished countrymen, starting today, your government will be your champion.

We will not disregard the needs of our students. We will begin by addressing the glaring shortage in classrooms and educational facilities.

Gradually, we will lessen the lack of infrastructures for transportation, tourism and trade. From now on, mediocre work will not be good enough when it comes to roads, bridges, and buildings because we will hold contractors responsible for maintaining their projects in good condition.

We will revive the emergency employment program established by former President Corazon Aquino. This will provide jobs for local communities and will help in the development of their and our economy.

We will not be the cause of your suffering or hardship. We will strengthen collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and we will fight corruption in the Bureau of Customs in order to fund our objectives for the public welfare, such as:

  • Quality education, including vocational education, so that those who choose not to attend college or those who cannot afford it can find dignified livelihood;
  • Improved public health services such as PhilHealth for all within three years;
  • A home for every family, within safe communities.

We will strengthen the armed forces and the police, not to serve the interests of those who want to wield power with impunity, but to give added protection for ordinary folk. The armed forces and the police risk their lives daily so that the nation can live in peace and security. The population has doubled and yet their numbers remain unchanged. It is not right that those who make sacrifices are treated pitifully.

If there was a fertilizer scam in the past, today there will be security for farmers. We will help them with irrigation, extension services, and marketing their products at the best possible prices.

We are directing Secretary Alcala to set up trading centers that will directly link farmers and consumers thereby eliminating middlemen and opportunities for corruption. In this way, funds can be shared by farmers and consumers. We will make our country attractive to investors. We will cut red tape dramatically and implement stable economic policies. We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance to business. This is the only means by which we can provide jobs for our people.

Our goal is to create jobs at home so that there will be no need to look for employment abroad. However, as we work towards that end, I am ordering the DFA, POEA, OWWA, and other relevant agencies to be even more responsive to the needs and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers.

We will strengthen the process of consultation and feedback. We will strive to uphold the constitutional right of citizens to information on matters of public concern.

We relived the spirit of people power during the campaign. Let it take us to good and effective governance. Those who believe in people power put the welfare of others before their own.

I can forgive those who did me wrong but I have no right to forgive those who abused our people. To those who talk about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: there can be no reconciliation without justice. When we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again. Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.

We are also happy to inform you the acceptance of Chief Justice Hilario Davide of the challenge of strengthening and heading a Truth Commission that will shed light on many unanswered issues that continue to haunt our country.

My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflict, inclusive of the interests of all — may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.

We shalI defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life. With proper governance life will improve for all. When we are all living well, who will want to go back to living under oppression?

If I have all of you by my side, we will be able to build a nation in which there will be equality of opportunity, because each of us fulfilled our duties and responsibilities equally.

After the elections, you proved that it is the people who wield power in this country. This is what democracy means. It is the foundation of our unity. We campaigned for change. Because of this, the Filipino stands tall once more. We are all part of a nation that can begin to dream again.

To our friends and neighbors around the world, we are ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities.

We will be a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, “it all works.”

Today, I am inviting you to pledge to yourselves and to our people. No one shall be left behind. No more junkets, no more senseless spending. No more turning back on pledges made during the campaign, whether today or in the coming challenges that will confront us over the next six years. No more influence-peddling, no more patronage politics, no more stealing. No more sirens, no more short cuts, no more bribes. It is time for us to work together once more.

We are here today because we stood together and believed in hope. We had no resources to campaign other than our common faith in the inherent goodness of the Filipino.

The people who are behind us dared to dream. Today, the dream starts to become a reality. To those among you who are still undecided about sharing the common burden I have only one question: Are you going to quit now that we have won?

You are the boss so I cannot ignore your orders. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to your needs and aspirations.

You are the ones who brought me here – our volunteers – old, young, celebrity, ordinary folks who went around the country to campaign for change; my household help who provided for all my personal needs; my family, friends, colleagues at work, who shared, cared, and gave their support; my lawyers who stayed all hours to guard my votes and make sure they were counted; and the millions of Filipinos who prevailed, kept faith, and never lost hope – I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

I will not be able to face my parents and you who have brought me here if do not fulfill the promises I made. My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.

My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change.

Thank you and long live the Filipino people!

On Justice Thurgood Marshall

June 30, 2010

Thurgood Marshall’s Legacy deserves cheers, not sneers

By Stephanie J. Jones

Note: Justice Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Jefferson Clinton.

As Senators Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl and John Cornyn disparaged the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the opening day of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, dismissing him as an “activist judge” in what appeared to be a raw attempt to score political points, I wondered: “Have you no sense of decency, at long last?”

Let me put it plainly, senators: Far from being the out-of-the-mainstream caricature you seek to create, Thurgood Marshall deserves your unyielding gratitude and respect. Among other things, he saved this nation from a second civil war.

It was Marshall who, with Howard Law School Dean Charles Hamilton Houston, his mentor, conceived and then painstakingly effectuated the jurisprudence that led to the striking down of the odious “separate but equal” doctrine that threatened to destroy this country.

While many decry “activist judges” (by which they seem to mean judges who uphold civil rights for minorities and women), those judges who undermine civil rights often demonstrate the most extreme forms of activism. Judges such as those who declared in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutionally sound turned the Constitution on its head and made a mockery of equal protection. Those activist judges subjected an entire segment of Americans to more than half a century of state-imposed degradation, subjugation and humiliation.

A nation thus divided cannot stand. And simmering below the surface was anger, frustration and growing hopelessness. We know what happens to a dream deferred. It explodes.

But Thurgood Marshall did not let that happen. As general counsel for the NAACP, he thoughtfully laid the groundwork for change. He and a cadre of brilliant lawyers, black and white, spent nearly two decades paving the way for the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in 1954 that “separate but equal” was antithetical to our constitutional principles. Far from activists, they were protectors of the Constitution. Unlike many of his detractors, past and present, Marshall showed the utmost reverence for the Constitution, digging it out of the trash heap on which Plessy and its progeny had tossed it and helping the nation begin to heal.

Were it not for Marshall and the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Montgomery bus boycott that introduced the world to Dr. Martin Luther King probably would have been an exercise in futility. Without Marshall, the civil rights movement of the 1960s — which relied heavily on the protections provided in a series of critical federal rulings based on the precedents he created — could have gone another way.

Marshall stood up for the rights of millions of ordinary Americans who, were it not for him, would have continued to be second-class citizens, unable to vote, attend state universities or share public accommodations by virtue of the color of their skin. This would have been a very different nation — had it even survived.

And he carried forth this work on the Supreme Court. “Whether in the majority or in dissent, Justice Marshall’s faith in the Constitution encompassed more than the racial issues of his civil rights days. Indeed, he saw the protection provided by the Constitution as extending beyond color and racial constraints to preventing official governmental abuse of any disadvantaged person,” members of the Supreme Court bar noted in an unanimous resolution honoring the late justice in 1993. “Marshall staunchly believed that equal protection meant equal — regardless of color. In Peters v. Kiff Justice Marshall delivered the opinion of the Court upholding a white defendant’s claim that the Constitution was violated by the exclusion of blacks from the petit and grand juries. ‘The existence of a constitutional violation does not depend on the circumstances of the person making the claim.’ “

Marshall was a great jurist who used his skills to move this country closer to being a more perfect union. As a lawyer and a justice, he protected us from activist judges and the cramped thinking of politicians who tried to keep our country in the muck. And he never forgot how the high court’s rulings affect the least of us.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote: “His was the eye of a lawyer who had seen the deepest wounds in the social fabric and used law to help heal them. His was the ear of a counselor who understood the vulnerabilities of the accused and established safeguards for their protection. His was the mouth of a man who knew the anguish of the silenced and gave them a voice.”

But perhaps the most eloquent tribute to Marshall was expressed in two words. During some of the darkest times in our nation’s history, when rights were denied, lives were threatened and African Americans knew they could not turn to their government for help, calls would go out to the NAACP. When the answer came, the words whispered in homes, churches and communities were enough to calm fears, lift despair, assuage anger and give enough hope to hold on a bit longer: “Thurgood’s coming.”

Thurgood came. And he came through. He taught us all what it means to love our country enough to work to make it a little better, a little stronger and a little closer to what it’s supposed to be. That’s not activism. That’s patriotism. And for that, Thurgood Marshall deserves respect and thanks, not sneers.

The writer, a public affairs and government relations strategist, was executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute from 2005 to 2010 and was chief Senate Judiciary Committee counsel to John Edwards from 2002 to 2005.

Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

June 30, 2010

OPINION: Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

by Jackson Diehl (June 27, 2010)

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s political opposition, has become known over the past decade as one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in Muslim countries. His many friends in Washington include prominent members of the neoconservative movement — such as Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank president and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia — as well as such Democratic grandees as Al Gore.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman

Lately, Anwar has been getting attention for something else: strident rhetoric about Israel and alleged “Zionist influence” in Malaysia. He recently joined a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned. He’s made dark insinuations about the “Jewish-controlled” Washington public relations firm APCO Worldwide, which is working for Malaysia’s quasi-authoritarian government.

Therein lies a story of the Obama era — about a beleaguered democrat fighting for political and personal survival with little help from Washington; about the growing global climate of hostility toward Israel; and about the increasing willingness of U.S. friends in places such as Turkey and Malaysia to exploit it.

First, a little about Anwar: While serving as deputy prime minister under Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s, he began pushing for reforms — only to be arrested, tried and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of homosexual sodomy. Freed after six years, he built a multi-ethnic democratic opposition movement that shocked the ruling party with its gains in recent elections.

It now appears to have a chance at winning the next parliamentary campaign, which would allow Malaysia to join Indonesia and Turkey as full-fledged majority-Muslim democracies.

Not surprisingly, Anwar is being prosecuted again. Once again the charge is consensual sodomy, which to Malaysia’s discredit remains a crime punishable by whipping and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Anwar, who is 63 and married with children, denies the charge, and the evidence once again is highly suspect. His 25-year-old accuser has confessed to meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak and talking by phone with the national police chief in the days before the alleged sexual encounter.

Nevertheless the trial is not going well. If it ends in another conviction, Anwar’s political career and his opposition coalition could be destroyed, and his life could be at risk: His health is not great. Yet the opposition leader is not getting the kind of support from the United States as during his first prosecution, when then-Vice President Gore spoke up for him. Obama said nothing in public about Anwar when he granted Najib a prized bilateral meeting in Washington in April.

After a “senior officials dialogue” between the two governments this month, the State Department conceded that the ongoing trial again had not been raised, “because this issue was recently discussed at length.” When it comes to human rights, the Obama administration apparently does not wish to be repetitive.

Anwar meanwhile found his own way to fight back. Hammered for years by government propaganda describing him as an Israeli agent and a Wolfowitz-loving American lackey, he tried to turn the tables, alleging that APCO was manipulating the government to support Israeli and U.S. interests. He also said that Israeli agents had infiltrated Malaysia’s security forces and were “directly involved in the running of the government.”

Najib describes Israel as “world gangsters.” But he quickly turned Anwar’s words against him; APCO has been peddling the anti-Israel statements around Washington.

Anwar is like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he regards as a friend and fellow traveler. Both know better than to indulge in such stuff. Both have recently begun to do it anyway — after a year in which the Obama administration has frequently displayed irritation with Israel. “If you say we are growing impatient with Israel, that is true,” Anwar told me. “If you say I am not too guarded or careful in what I say sometimes, that is also true.”

Anwar, who was in Washington for a couple of days last week, spent a lot of time offering explanations to old friends, not to mention House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and a Jewish leader or two. He said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression,” which are common coin for demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Why do I need to use it if it causes so much misunderstanding?” he said. “I need to be more careful.”

Many of the Malaysian’s friends are inclined to give him a break. “What Anwar did was wrong, but considering that he’s literally fighting for his life — physically as well as politically — against a government that attacks him as being ‘a puppet of the Jews,’ one should cut him some slack,” Wolfowitz told me.

But Anwar’s story can also be read as a warning. His transition from pro-American democrat to anti-Israeli zealot is sobering — and it is on the verge of becoming a trend.

Do Economists know what they are talking about?

June 29, 2010

Do Economists know what they are talking about, asks Robert Samuelson of Newsweek (June 28, 2010)

“..the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.
—John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1936)

Almost everyone wants the world’s governments to do more to revive ailing economies. No one wants a “double dip” recession. The Group of 20 Summit in Toronto was determined to avoid one. In major advanced countries—the 31 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—unemployment stands at 46.5 million people, up about 50 percent since 2007. It’s not just that people lack work. Lengthy unemployment may erode skills, leading to downward mobility or permanent joblessness. But what more can governments do? It’s unclear.

We may be reaching the limits of economics. As Keynes noted, political leaders are hostage to the ideas of economists—living and dead—and economists increasingly disagree about what to do.

Granted, the initial response to the crisis (sharp cuts in interest rates, bank bailouts, stimulus spending) probably averted a depression. But the crisis has also battered the logic of all major theories: Keynesianism, monetarism and “rational expectations.” Economics has become the shaky science; its intellectual chaos provides context for today’s policy disputes at home and abroad.

Consider the matter of budgets. Would bigger deficits stimulate the economy and create jobs, as standard Keynesianism suggests? Or do exploding government debts threaten another financial crisis?

The Keynesian logic seems airtight. If consumer and business spending is weak, government raises demand through tax cuts or spending increases. But in practice, governments’ high debts impose financial and psychological limits. The ratio of government debt to the economy (gross domestic product) is 92 percent for France, 82 percent for Germany and 83 percent for Britain, reports the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland.

This means that the benefits of higher deficits can be lost in many ways: through higher interest rates if greater debt frightens investors; through declines in private spending if consumers and businesses lose confidence in governments’ ability to control budgets; and through a banking crisis if bank capital—which consists heavily of government bonds—declines in value. There’s a tug of war between the stimulus of bigger deficits and the fears inspired by bigger deficits.

Based on favorable assumptions, the Obama Administration says its $787 billion “stimulus” program created or saved up to 2.8 million jobs. This might be. Lenders haven’t lost confidence in U.S. Treasury bonds. Interest rates on 10-year Treasurys are just over 3 percent. But in Europe, financial limits have bitten. Greece’s huge debt (debt-to-GDP ratio: 123 percent) resulted in a steep rise of interest rates. Germany and Britain are debating plans to cut their deficits to avoid Greece’s fate.

That’s lunacy, writes Martin Wolf, chief economic commentator for the Financial Times. Concerted austerity may destroy the recovery. Exactly, echoes Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argues that the U.S. economy needs more stimulus and bigger deficits. “Penny-pinching at a time like this . . .,” he writes, “endangers the nation’s future.”

Not so, counters Harvard economist Ken Rogoff. President Obama’s stimulus package may have “helped calm the panic” in 2009, but boosting spending now—with federal deficits exceeding $1 trillion—raises “the risk of having a debt crisis down the road.” Deficits should be gradually trimmed, he argues.

Indeed, some economists believe that budget cutbacks can stimulate economic growth under some circumstances. A study by economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna found that budget cutbacks in wealthy countries often had an expansionary effect when spending reductions, not tax increases, were emphasized. Presumably, these budget plans favorably influenced interest rates and confidence without weakening the incentives to work and invest.

Like textbook Keynesianism, “monetarism” has also suffered in its explanatory power. This theory holds that big injections of money (“reserves”) into the banking system by the Federal Reserve should lead to higher lending, higher spending and—if large enough—inflation. Well, since the summer of 2008, the Fed has provided about $1 trillion of reserves to banks, and none of these things has happened. Inflation remains tame, and outstanding bank loans have dropped more than $200 billion in the past year. Banks are sitting on massive excess reserves.

There’s a great deal economists don’t understand. Not surprisingly, the adherents of “rational expectations”—a theory that people generally figure out how best to respond to economic events—didn’t anticipate financial panic and economic collapse. The disconnect between theory and reality seems ominous. The response to the initial crisis was to throw money at it—to lower interest rates and expand budget deficits. But with interest rates now low and deficits high, what happens if there’s another crisis?

Robert Samuelson is also the author of The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence and Untruth: Why the Conventional Wisdom Is (Almost Always) Wrong.

Dearth of Thinking Minds and Quality Labour

June 29, 2010

A Dearth of Thinking Minds and Quality Labour by 2020, say MP for Klang Charles Santiago

by B Nantha Kumar

Malaysia may likely face a dearth of thinking minds and quality labour by 2020 if the current outflow of professionals is not quickly stemmed, said Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Citing statistics, Santiago said between 2000 and 2009, some 700,000 professionals had left the country seeking opportunities elsewhere.

“Looking at the current scenario and the number of professional leaving the country we are unlikely to achieve the 6% economic growth target in the next five years. The brain drain is a serious reality. Between 2000 and 2009, Malaysia has lost 700,000 professionals… that is 3% of our total population. At this rate by 2020, we will have no professionals in the country,” he said.

Attributing the brain-drain to the current social and political climate, he told participants at a 10th Malaysia Plan forum here it was a fallacy to think that it was only the Chinese and Indian professionals who were migrating.

“It is no more the story of old that only Indians and Chinese are immigrating… a large number of Malays too are looking abroad for jobs and opportunities because of the social and political instability in the country,” he said.

Santiago said the continued uncertainty over prices of goods and services and stagnant salaries were contributory factors to Malaysians seeking employment abroad.

He also drew attention to the government’s lack of interest in developing new industries. “PETRONAS has no more money to spend… now is the time for the government to look at new industries and ensure the country has a diverse source of income,” he said.

PKR: Azmin Ali-Khalid Ibrahim Rivalry

June 29, 2010

PKR: Azmin Ali-Khalid Ibrahim Rivalry

by Dr Ong Kian Ming (June 28, 2010)

COMMENT Competition and jostling for positions and power are par for the course for politicians in any political party, including the opposition parties in Malaysia.

The notion of the parties in Pakatan being made up of idealists who are united in a single purpose or for a single ideology should be disabused, especially after March 8, 2008, because of increased political stakes.

That said, the most recent political salvo fired by Azmin Ali, MP for Gombak and state assembly representative for Bukit Antarabangsa, comes across as nothing more than a naked power grab, barely a month after the PKR congress where indications were that the current MB of Selangor, Khalid Ibrahim, would be given some breathing room to enact reforms and to improve on his performance.

azlanThe shortcomings of Khalid are well-known and well-documented. Not all of them are necessarily bad traits to have and in fact have made him rather popular in the eyes of the general voting public. His insistence, for example, on not wanting to dish out contracts and favours to party insiders, including PKR MPs, while seen as a shortcoming from within his own party, actually boosts his public popularity.

Other weaknesses are more legitimate, including his inability to make quick decisions as a result of which many business opportunities in the state have been put on the backburner. His indecisiveness on certain matters have also led some Pakatan state assembly representatives, some of whom could easily have been turned into his allies, to view him as an impediment to development and to solving problems faced by the Selangor residents.

I am sure others who are more familiar with the affairs of the Selangor state government and know Khalid personally can tell you many more weaknesses (as well as strengths, I may add). But there must be better ways for Azmin to pressure Khalid to improve his performance (if this is even a consideration) or to legitimately challenge his leadership of the state.

Astute political operator

If Azmin wants to show that he can be a better MB than Khalid, then he has to show that he can do more for the state than be an astute political operator within his own party, which no one doubts. In fact, that is precisely his problem.

The general public, which is far less interested in the internal maneuvering of PKR and how Khalid may or may not be improving the institutional and financial capacity of his own party (both legitimate concerns), sees Azmin as nothing more than a political operator with greedy ambitions to replace Khalid.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that most of the public who do follow politics closely probably sees Azmin as ‘Anwar-like’ and perhaps even ‘Anwar-lite’. In other words, a skillful political operator with great ambition but somewhat lacking in substance and perhaps even patience.

Why not use his position as MP and ADUN to show to the public what kind of state Selangor would be under his leadership? While I have not followed his debates in the state assembly closely, the thrust and content of his speeches in Parliament have mostly focused on revealing corruption on the part of the BN.

While this is an important responsibility (revealing corrupt practices), it shows a certain unwillingness to do the hard thinking which is required when it comes to examining important policy questions.

For example, how does the 10th Malaysian Plan affect the growth prospects of Selangor? In what way can the state government work with the federal government to carry out aspects of the 10th Malaysian Plan which calls for more development in the Greater KL area?

Everyone knows that Azmin wants to replace Khalid as the next MB of Selangor. Why not come out in the open to say this and to present an alternative plan of leadership rather than to resort to the same old Umno practices of ‘wayang kulit‘ and political machinations behind the scenes? This is the very sort of thing which many voters voted against on March 8, 2008.

Naked ambition

Azmin has perhaps taken the playbook to the next level by having these open mutinies against Khalid. Even the much more inept Terengganu MB Ahmad Said has had greater reprieve from his Umno counterparts who despise his leadership, compared to the constant attacks Khalid and his staff have been subjected to, courtesy of Azmin.

Sadly, Azmin’s naked ambition also shows his failure to appreciate the fact that even if he succeeds in unseating Khalid, the public damage done would be so great that Pakatan would not be able to retain the state. It would be different if Azmin could come in and demonstrate great leadership that would catapult Selangor to stratospheric heights of economic development or to capture the public imagination with a great vision of what Selangor will be under his leadership as MB.

But nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe that this will happen. In fact, many of Azmin’s own weaknesses, including the inability to build institutional capacity within his own party and the preference to want to play internal politics (remind you of anyone?) would be exacerbated to a far more worrying degree if he took over from Khalid as MB, let’s say starting tomorrow.

If this was the case, then his tenure as MB would probably last until the next general election. Furthermore, there’s no telling what sort of lasting damage this would do to Pakatan’s electoral prospects both within Selangor and at the national level. Just think of Anwar’s own failed power grab on Sept 16, 2008.

It’s still not too late for Azmin to demonstrate that he can be a better leader for Pakatan in Selangor than Khalid and not just a better political operator. He needs to use his new position as the chief of PKR in Selangor and his existing platforms as ADUN and MP to show that he has a clear vision of what he wants Selangor to be.

What Khalid must also do

Meanwhile, Khalid has to decide if he really wants his job and the extent he has to work in order to keep it.

He needs to realise that he cannot avoid the political aspects of his job. He needs to win support and gain allies from within his own party. He doesn’t necessarily need to dispense projects to these potential allies. Perhaps by being more decisive, he can spur business opportunities in some of the constituencies of his political detractors.

Khalid may have been weakened by Azmin but he still holds the position of the MB and with that, the power that comes with the office. He needs to communicate the achievements of his state government more effectively. He also needs to restate the case for his own leadership and why Pakatan needs him to lead Selangor into the next general election.

In the meantime, I, like many other interested parties, will watch the continuing political battle between Azmin and Khalid. Finally, because of space, I have left out any discussion of Anwar Ibrahim’s role in this. Fodder for another article perhaps?

ONG KIAN MING is a political analyst and a lecturer at UCSI University. He holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. His views expressed here are obviously his own and not that of the university he is attached to.

A Nettoian Perspective on being PKR No. 2

June 28, 2010

What it takes to be Number 2 in PKR

by Terence Netto (

COMMENT In the media hoopla over the Selangor PKR crisis, revolving as it did on the Khalid Ibrahim and Azmin Ali rivalry as prelude to a contest for the party deputy president’s post, little or no attention was paid to a vital question.

This is what is required of one to be No 2 in a PKR that is supposed to lead the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. At this point, some may smirk at the entire notion of PKR being the leading party in Pakatan, what with five MPs and several lesser lights having left the party in the last one-a-half years of tumult in its ranks.

Although their departures have sullied PKR’s stature, few seriously feel that the quitters were anything other than fringe players in the overall composition of the party.

PKR can replace them with, in all likelihood, better quality candidates who can win back the very constituencies held by these defectors. But can PKR find a leader with the intellectual and moral stature to be No 2 to Anwar Ibrahim and help him hold the Pakatan coalition together, which means striking a balance between an avowedly secular DAP and a theocracy-favouring PAS?

If you think light of this matter, consider the anxious musings of DAP chairman Karpal Singh on the possibility that once Pakatan takes federal power, there could well be a renewal of the question of an Islamic state which Karpal concedes is a matter of ideological principle to PAS.

While acknowledging that PAS would find it difficult to abandon its Islamic state agenda, Karpal reiterated that DAP would never give up its stance that Malaysia is a secular state.

Karpal, who once called for Anwar’s replacement as Pakatan supremo, now acknowledges that Anwar is the main adhesive in a coalition of disparate ideologies.

He is the only politician who can keep the improbable Pakatan coalition together. And keeping it together is the only way to propelling it to replace the status quo that is beyond redemption.

Islam compatible with democracy?

Two reasons explain the phenomenon of Anwar Ibrahim: One is that Anwar has been able to project his struggles against his UMNO-imposed travails into a mirror of the larger citizenry’s need for a better Malaysia.

And secondly, Anwar has displayed surpassing intellection in his quest to build a religiously informed public philosophy for the Malaysian experiment in democratic restoration.

Just now this quest is connected to a world-historical issue, which is whether Islam is compatible with democracy in Muslim-majority nations.

Much of his career till now and to come – should be become prime minister of Malaysia – is joined to this issue.Is this overstating the case? Surveying national, regional and the world scenarios, one thinks not. We are at a world-historical crossroads where the truths bequeath to us by religion, Greek rationality, Roman law and the European Enlightenment are knowable through the arts of reason.

These truths confer on us certain obligations, both personal and civil, that have to be held, assented to, and worked into the fabric of democratic institutions for the prevalence of peace, justice, freedom and unity.The saga of Anwar’s tumultuous career and intellectualism contain constant reminders of the need to make the ongoing Malaysian experiment in democratic restoration a resounding success.

Seen and defined in this way, the question of who is to be No 2 in PKR dwarfs the presumptive candidates. They ought to be in no hurry to fill it.

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 gets a breather and stays as Menteri Besar

June 28, 2010

Khalid gets a breather and stays as Menteri Besar

by Hazlan Zakaria (

YB Azmin Ali--PKR Selangor Chief

Though having a reputation of being clean and carrying with him decades of corporate experience, it hasn’t been easy for Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim over the past few months.

Dissatisfaction by grassroots over his alleged weaknesses as a menteri besar, coupled with grassroots dissatisfaction that they were not given lucrative contracts and government positions, came to boiling point at the PKR congress last month.

The latest round of assault came in form of PKR vice-president Azmin Ali’s resignation as the Selangor Development Board (PKNS) director, sparking rumours that he was leading a group of 15 PKR MPs (G15) to topple Khalid.

Following this, a party retreat was held today (June 27) at Shah Alam involving the party’s national leadership and all elected representatives, ostensibly to prepare for the next general elections.

In the end, a minor but significant reshuffle took place with party president Dr Wan Azizah Ismail replacing Khalid with Azmin as Selangor PKR chief.  The move is likely to give Khalid some breathing space, allowing the relatively popular menteri besar to continue his agenda while granting Azmin more say in state PKR policy.

Conflicting accounts

Officially, the party never intended to dissect Khalid’s position during the retreat today. Party communication chief Latheefa Koya said that during the retreat, leaders were broken into groups to discuss strategy and other issues.

However, when approached, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin admitted that the problems the retreat was looking to rectify, indirectly stem from the weaknesses of the Selangor leadership. “Indirectly, yes. However, he (Khalid) is not the only one with responsible. We will all have to work together to fix the situation,” said Zuraida, who is also Ampang MP.

Chief amongst these weaknesses, she mentioned, are in the communication machinery of both PKR at a national level and at the state levels.

PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh said there were calls by retreat participants for Khalid to “follow party guidelines”, adding that the latter was doing a fine job of that so far. “He has shown improvement, especially after the events of the last party congress,” she said.

Azmin to spearhead attack on UMNO?

But despite Khalid’s so called “improvement”, it would seem that the party has decided that the weaknesses of his administration, whether indirect or not, needs to be rectified immediately.The first step was to relieve Khalid of his duties as Selangor party chief to allow him to concentrate on administrating the state.

The second move was to place party officials – including Sabak Bernam PKR chief and notable firebrand cleric Badrul Amin Baharom – in Khalid’s office to help boost the state government’s communication efforts.

These moves are likely to grant the state government and state PKR leadership more firepower to attack the UMNO-led opposition, who has been relatively ignored by the confrontation-shy Khalid.

The View from Asia

June 27, 2010

The View from Asia

by Simon Tay*

In Shanghai recently, I dined at a stylish restaurant set amid a row of designer shops. It felt as if I was having dinner in New York’s Manhattan district, and when the bill came I realised it was just as expensive.

Over in New York, meanwhile, friends tell me that their summer sales are putting the Great Singapore Sale to shame. It seems prices in major Chinese cities keep rising, while many in parts of America they are getting more affordable than ever.

The announcement by the People’s Bank of China that it will allow more flexibility in the value of the yuan ends the yuan’s stable exchange rate with the US dollar, set in July 2008. China will now manage the currency against a weighted basket of currencies, including the greenback, probably with a “creeping peg”.

Many expect the currency will appreciate; the only question is how much and how quickly. The move may be the start of the end of China as a cheap destination.

That change is important not just to the two countries. Just about everyone in Asia trades with China and also the US. There are implications not just for the price of goods, but also for exports and competitiveness.
Economic impact aside, however, the primary significance is political.

Tensions have been growing over currency values with the Obama administration and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner pushing for the yuan’s appreciation. China’s statement will help keep relations on an even keel ahead of the G-20 meeting this weekend.

But stabilising US-China ties will take more than statements. Many US lawmakers and commentators remain sceptical of how far China will go. When China managed the float between 2005 and 2008, there was only a marginal appreciation. Unless China is seen to do more, American attitudes will harden.

Take Democrat Senator Charles Schumer, for example. The senator has pushed to restrict Chinese imports and was quoted as believing that “only strong legislation will get the Chinese to change”.

Despite China’s shift, the issue will continue to simmer. Facing mid-term elections in November, many American politicians will be tempted to bring the issue to a boil to gain votes by hitting out at China. In the wake of the crisis, many Americans are still without jobs and feel that unfair trade and globalisation have been hurting them unfairly. To them, the face of unfair globalisation is Chinese.

That can hurt not just China but the rest of Asia, since the regional production network hubs are around China. Unless China and others in the region move on their currencies, pressure will grow in the US for action against imports from across the Pacific.

But does China really want to appreciate the yuan? A shift to a more flexible rate and a stronger yuan can help reduce imported inflation. The next step for China may be to adjust its interest rates. This would help curb the housing and other asset bubbles that many see in the current exuberance across the country. The danger is that if this is done too quickly or too harshly, demand and the Chinese economy could be hit. But with growth currently hitting almost 10 per cent, there seems to be room for Beijing to manoeuvre its economy.

Political room for manoeuvre may be trickier. Decades ago, an American Treasury Secretary once quipped about a falling US dollar: “It is our currency, but your problem.” This still seems true today so long as the dollar remains the de facto common currency for Asian trade.

It remains to be seen how other Asian countries will position their currencies vis-a-vis the falling US dollar and the rising yuan. But if you think in US dollars, prepare for more expensive dinners in China.

* Simon Tay is Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and author of the newly released book, Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America.–Today

Anwar Ibrahim in Washington DC

June 27, 2010

Anwar Ibrahim in Washington DC

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who faces a return to prison on controversial sodomy charges, is asking the United States to temper its enthusiasm for building ties with his country.

On a visit to Washington, Anwar welcomed the attention paid to Malaysia by President Barack Obama but said the administration needed to be careful not to be “condoning the excesses” of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government.

“Just because we have a prime minister coming here and agreeing with whatever Obama wants him to do or to say does not erase or protect him from the crimes committed at home,” Anwar told AFP.

Najib visited Washington in April for a major summit on nuclear security and backed Obama in opposing any move by Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Some Malaysian officials saw Najib’s visit as a breakthrough after years of rocky ties. Veteran former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a strident critic of US foreign policy, although the countries have long been major trading partners.

The Obama administration has put a renewed focus on Southeast Asia, believing it was overlooked under former president George W Bush, and on reaching out to the world’s moderate Muslims.

“What do you mean by a moderate Muslim country? Does that mean you can detain people without trial, deny basic freedom, you can ill-treat and discriminate against religious minorities?” Anwar said.

“We can be very tolerant, we can condemn the Iranians – can that cover the stench in your backyard? I don’t believe so.”

‘Political assassination’

Anwar is accused of sodomy by a 25-year-old former aide, who said Anwar propositioned him at an apartment in 2008.Sodomy, even among consenting adults, is illegal in Malaysia. If convicted, Anwar could face up to 20 years imprisonment.

Anwar, a 62-year-old father of six, previously spent six years in solitary confinement on separate sex and corruption counts after being sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 following a falling out with Mahathir. In prison, Anwar said he read the complete works of Shakespeare four times.

The Malaysian government says that the court is independent and obliged to pursue lawsuits filed by any individual.

But Anwar said the trial amounted to “political assassination” by Najib to prevent him from taking power. The opposition made major strides in 2008 elections, stunning the BN coalition that has been in power for half a century.

Anwar has lost a series of legal maneuvers in his trial, including failing to win access to medical reports and to statements by his accuser.

Anwar in Washington DC

He said he appreciated support from the United States but found the Obama administration’s overall record on human rights “disappointing.”

“We expect them to do more than Bush – these people who believe in freedom, human rights, the rule of law,” Anwar said.

Anwar met in Washington with senior policymakers including Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, who promised in April that the United States would closely scrutinise Anwar’s trial.

Anwar was in the US capital at the invitation of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he delivered a lecture arguing that democracy was compatible with Islam in Southeast Asia. In his public remarks, Anwar strongly criticised a former Malaysian government ban on non-Muslims using the word ‘Allah’ as a translation for ‘God’.

A court struck down the ban on December 31, after which assailants attacked a number of churches.”It’s completely insane and ridiculous to suggest that you can impose on others, non-Muslims, a law denying them a right to call their God whatever name,” Anwar said.

“This can only come from a ruling establishment or clique that is myopic, racist, clearly intolerant and undemocratic,” he said.


Civil Awareness and Activism: People Power

June 27, 2010

Civil Awareness and Activism

by Hazlan Zakaria ( –June 26, 2010)

Bersih Protest: People Power in Action

I believe that if you distill the essence of civil activism and bottle it, you can grade them according to country of origin. I call it the Nandos theory.

Developed from long incisive dinner-table discussions with my fellow patriotic chicken lovers, the theory took shape from the four types of sauces you’ll find on offer at the chicken meal chain store: “Lemon & Herbs”, “Mild”, “Hot” and “Extra Hot”.

As we dig into the meal, my friends and I once proposed that if the chicken is the nation, then the sauce is surely the state of civil awareness and activism.

As the ruling party or coalition (whose distinctions are often blurred) dine upon the chicken (.i.e. nation) with gusto, the sauce (civil awareness and activism) serves as the check and balance and the flavour of their severity.

The spiciness of civil society ensures that one does not dine too hastily, forgetting to give more than mere left overs to the populace, the very people who elected them into power. Obviously, “Lemon & Herbs” equates free reign plunder, “Mild” indicates a blinkered downtrodden public, “Hot” keeps the powers that be in check, and “Extra Hot” signals people’s power.

When it comes to Malaysia, we always give it the thumbs down, hovering between “Lemon & Herbs” and “Mild”, hardly ever above that.We attribute this to two major failings.

‘Tidak Apa’ attitude

The first is structural: the Malaysian public’s infamous ‘tidak apa‘ (couldn’t care less) attitude. It is the “it’s okay”, “government know best” and “there’s nothing we can do” mentality that the nation has unfortunately taken to heart.

It is a far cry from the multiracial multitudes who, during our early inception, thronged the streets to defend the nation’s sovereignty and the Malay Rulers against MacMichael’s Malayan Union.

After 50 years of being buttered up and lulled by holidays, subsidies, the feather stroking of the government, we have forgotten that we have wings. We are hobbled, clipped and live in a cage of our own making.

The second failure is the government’s constant branding of people’s power as a “Western invention” that is destructive to our “Asian values”.

Despite the ruling parties’ origins and roots in the mobilisation of the populace to bring about change, they now do their utmost to stifle civil activism in the new generation. Witness, the Universities and University College Act (UUCA) and the plethora of draconian acts (ISA, EO, DDA, PPPA) used to silence dissent.

Our very own Zionists?

Somewhat similar is the practice of Israel, whose origins hark back to terrorism against the British. Indeed the first Zionist premier Ben Gurion was linked to the very Jewish terror group, the Stern Gang, that assassinated the territory’s British minister resident.

But the ruling Zionist regime now clamp down upon any imagined inkling of terrorism among the Palestinians, whose land they occupy with paranoiac certainty.Knowing the power of terrorism first hand, the Israelis want to ensure there is no repeat performance with themselves at the receiving end.

Similarly, the BN regime now clamps down on those very same dissenting voices and civil activism which once put them in power. It appears they are also like the Israelis, afraid to lose what they deem is theirs forever.

They forget it is not theirs to begin with, but only borrowed in return for service. It is one social contract they chose to ignore, despite harping on another ‘social contract’ which they claim grants supremacy to some.

No longer meek or ‘mild’

But the flavour of local politics may have changed, as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak ‘sannouncement late last night showed. For the first time, society has collectively risen to pressure the once-mighty ruling coalition (or party?) to its knees. The sauce is no longer ‘Mild’.

The spectacular reversal of the issuance of the sports betting licence due to tremendous pressure and nationwide protests  by civil society was unanticipated, and at this level unprecedented. My circle of Nandos patriots are thereby forced to reassess our Malaysian civil activism rating from “Mild”, inching ever so slightly towards “Hot” and hopefully in future, to “Extra Hot”.

The incident has sent the prime minister a clear message: The sauce is no longer mild. The advent of internet media and independent publications have forcefully lifted the veil of suffocating political ownership and control of the mainstream media is a major contributing factor.

The propaganda blinkers which once covered public perception have been pushed back. Two things will hopefully result from this. For the powers that be to take notice and no longer feed us only civil activism table scraps from the generous offerings on our own plate, and for the public to realise that we do have the power to reclaim ownership, despite government best efforts to make us cower.

People Power!

DAP reacts to PKR Selangor Crisis

June 26, 2010

DAP tells PKR to ‘get your act together’

by Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

The DAP today issued a reminder to PKR to fix whatever internal problems it may have at this weekend’s PKR retreat amid a row over the position of the Selangor Mentri Besar.

DAP leaders say rumours of a plan to oust Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Mentri Besar have begun to affect the other component parties in the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government.

The DAP also gave its backing to Khalid to remain as Menteri Besar, stating that policies which have been passed under his administration have been “fair and just” for everyone.

They slammed Selangor opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s claims that Khalid will still remain in power as MB despite a possible coup because he was subservient to the DAP, and that the DAP actually governed the state.

MP Charles Santiago

“This is a warning to PKR. This cannot go on any longer. PKR should settle and resolve whatever internal bickering they may have during this weekend’s party retreat,” said Klang MP Charles Santiago.

The DAP man told The Malaysian Insider that the rumours of 15 PKR MPs planning to pressure Khalid to step down as MB have affected other PR component parties in the state.

“This issue is affecting everyone. Just last night I was at a function, and people were asking me these questions (about PKR), and I could not answer them.They have to get their act together,” said Santiago.

Santiago claimed that Khir’s remarks were “mischievous, slanderous and misleading” as it was a ploy to drive a wedge between PR component parties in the state.

“The people of Selangor are behind him (Khalid) because of his fair policies and because he is a clean man,” said Santiago. He said PAS and the DAP will also meet up with Khalid soon to discuss the latest matters pertaining to the state.

DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua vehemently denied that the DAP was instrumental in Khalid maintaining his position as Menteri Besar. “We would like that (laughs), if only we had everything our way. The fact is although we have 13 state assemblymen each for PKR and DAP, PKR has five excos while the DAP has three.

“There are a lot of examples which show that DAP does not control the state. If you look at GLCs (government-linked companies), only Teresa Kok is appointed to PKNS (Selangor State Development Corporation),” said Pua.

In a phone interview with The Malaysian Insider, Pua reaffirmed the DAP’s stand in supporting Khalid.“I think DAP Selangor supports Khalid because he is genuinely concerned with improving the welfare of the people in Selangor. And he is not corrupt,” added Pua.

Khir Toyo claimed yesterday that PKR lawmakers had been dissatisfied with Khalid’s running of the state for some time, but said the rebellion would not amount to anything as the Mentri Besar had the support of ally DAP.

“It will be quite impossible to remove Khalid as Mentri  Besar. First of all, Khalid’s support in Selangor is strong, very solid. Khalid is there because of DAP, not because of PKR. There is full support from Khalid to remain as Menteri Besar. Several DAP leaders have confirmed that with me,” Khir told The Malaysian Insider yesterday in an interview.

The former Selangor BN Mentri Besar had said that PKR did not call the shots in the state’s administration, and claimed that the position of MB was subject to the approval of the DAP.

PKR has been thrown into disarray since two of the party’s lawmakers recently confirmed that a “coup” to remove Khalid from office was being led by Teluk Kemang MP Datuk Kamarul Bahrain Abbas, who has denied the accusation.

The alleged revolt is believed to have started from Azmin Ali’s resignation from PKNS three days ago. Khalid has dismissed the revolt as mere speculation.—

Terenco Netto on Selangor PKR crisis

June 26, 2010

PKR Selangor crisis is NOT a zero-sum game

by Terence Netto (

Contrary to the gloom and doom reports, the current crisis in PKR over Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s stewardship is not a zero-sum game.“It’s not a question of either Khalid vacating the MB’s post or else the critics of his leadership will want out of the party,” said a PKR MP who spoke to Malaysiakini in the background.

The MP has empathy with both sides of the argument in the present controversy. “I don’t think it is a zero-sum game. That’s too extreme a reading of what has transpired so far,” said the parliamentarian who is not from Selangor state.

Nik Nazmi returns to PKR HQ

He said a zero-sum reading would be as inaccurate as the view of Khalid as adept at handling economic issues and daft at managing political ones. “Khalid is strong on economic issues, no doubt. But to think of him as good on economics only and poor at politics would be misleading,” said the MP.

He explained that a tendency to take a dichotomised view of the issues at stake in the controversy – that Khalid’s facility at economics came at the price of political ineptness, and that government and party are separated in Selangor – were to misperceive the situation even more.

He, however, noted that Khalid did not help matters when he did not attend several of the political bureau meetings of PKR that discussed and decided issues pertaining to Selangor. “This matter of him being asked to appoint a new political secretary which the political bureau chose arose when it appeared that Khalid needed someone who could gather feedback from divisional leaders and channel it to him,” said the MP.

“It was felt that Khalid’s previous political secretary Nik Nazmi (Nik Ahmad) was better was handling the information aspects of PKR work and so should be reassigned accordingly.”

The MP opined that the politburo’s choice of Azman Abidin as political secretary to Khalid was sound because he was the division leader in Bandar Tun Razak where Khalid is the MP. “Azman has been doing the work of holding the fort at Bandar Tun Razak for Khalid and he has been doing a good job. The choice was endorsed by the politburo and approved by Anwar,” he said.

Khalid rebuffs political directives

In the event, lawyer Faekah Husin (photo below, far left), former political secretary to PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was appointed by Khalid to replace the reassigned Nik Nazmi.

NONEThe MP said this move was seen by those long unhappy with Khalid’s seeming indifference to the party’s political directives as unwarrantedly provocative.

“Azman is good at listening and conveying and was chosen to help the MB with feedback from the divisions,” he said.

He said the issue of a new political secretary only arose when it was felt that Nik Nazmi  could be put to better use elsewhere (communications) and that allowed for the vacant position to be filled by someone with the strengths to shore up Khalid’s supposed weak flanks.

The MP said he personally viewed Khalid as a competent enough MB who has erred in reversing what ought to be the PKR module of political ingratiation with the people.

NONE“First, you ought to strive to endear yourself with the people by immersing yourself in their problems,” asserted the MP.

“Then you roll out the more sophisticated modules of socio-economic development. To enlist the people’s support for these modules would be easier after you have done the work of winning their affections,” he said.

He said the current crisis should not eventuate in one or the other side’s capitulation. “It just warrants that each side concedes that politics matters as much as economics and government and party are not separate spheres but interconnected,” he opined.

Martin Jalleh advises PKR to pack-up and go

June 26, 2010

Pack-Up and Go PKR

We have had enough of your high-brow and haughty leaders who hurl accusations and insults and humiliate one another and members of the coalition. Enough of your hypocrisy! You cannot get your own house in order and yet have high hopes about controlling Parliament House!

By Martin Jalleh (

Once again we hear of trouble, turbulence and turmoil in a political party that talks every other day about taking over the government in the next general elections. We will tolerate their nonsense no more. Yes, even if it means throwing out the baby with the bath water!

Please, please PKR stop pushing your fanciful dreams about occupying Putrajaya when you are in such a pathetic and pitiful state with your prima donna politicians parading their shameless petty and puerile politics in public.

As a party you have become laughable; and as Raja Petra Kamaruddin predicts, you could be facing your last days! Your political representatives are resting on their laurels and the increasing number of loudmouths and loose cannons are just longing to blast the party into oblivion!

Your endless intra-party squabbles, spats and skirmishes and splintered groups sicken those of us who once supported, voted and stood steadfastly by you. The strong and solid support many of us showed you have now turned into scorn.

We are fed up of your internal feuding and festering that has resulted in a fragile and faltering coalition and a farcical government-in-waiting! Your foolhardy ways will only be a fast-forward to your self-destruction. All UMNO needs to do is gleefully watch you finish off each other!

We are tired of your MPs and Assemblymen’s threats to resign, their taunts to one another to quit and their theatrics and tantrums to be turncoats. Truly, we have never seen such a dysfunctional horde of politicians! We will not take any of you seriously nor treat the party with respect anymore!

We have had enough of your high-browed haughty leaders who hurl accusations and insults and humiliate one another and members of the coalition. Enough of your hypocrisy! You cannot get your own house in order and yet have high hopes about controlling Parliament House! Take a hike, PKR!

Your disunity is disgusting. Your politicians delight in washing dirty linen and in denigrating each other in public. They are an absolute disgrace. Please have some dignity and decency, and dismiss yourselves. You do not deserve our confidence.

Your politicians are made up mainly of clowns who crap, crow, clamor for and cry aloud about change but cling on to their political charades, chicanery, claptrap and conspiracies, instead of collaborating at all costs in your professed commitment to bring about concrete change.

We are not interested in the reasons and root causes of your grievances against each other. Two years and more after the last General Elections and you are still unable to get your act together. Yet you make grand claims of being ready to govern this nation. Get real, PKR!

At times you look like a bunch of incompetent idiots, no different from the several insolent imposters who chose to insult our intelligence by leaving the party to be independent of party discipline and the wishes of the people in the last General Elections, out of purely selfish interests and greed.

Please spare us your excuses. The manipulative mainstream media and the maneuvering of key institutions of democracy by a desperate malevolent UMNO are to be expected. But at the end of the day your erratic, eccentric and egoistic representatives are to be blamed. Enough is enough!

Instead of translating into reality the promise of a “revolution in the (country’s) political culture” you “reward” the rakyat with your never-ending rumblings, rancor, political roguery and now a “rebellion” in Selangor by your MPs.  Is this what “reformasi” amounts to? Sheer “rubbish”!

Yes, go for your weekend retreat PKR leaders. I hope you will prove me and many others wrong but my guess is that you will still be a party weak, wavering, wobbling, wandering and wanting to do each other in … as you chart your way into political wilderness!

The road to Putrajaya requires stomach, stamina, synergy, solidarity and the sacrifice of personal agendas for the larger national agenda. Sadly, this journey has been stymied by your somnolent, selfish, self-centered and supercilious political representatives, whom Bolehland (Malaysia canLand) can do well without.

Tian Chua Case: A chilling effect on Pakatan colleagues

June 26, 2010

MP for Batu Tian Chua’s Fate still unresolved

by Kuek Ser Kuang Keng (June 25, 2010)

SPECIAL REPORT PKR Batu MP Tian Chua is still in his seat, but whether his case will cast a chill on his colleagues, resulting in them becoming more conservative when fighting for democratic space and people’s rights, is a question everybody is asking.

Chua was recently fined RM2,000 for intentionally causing injury to a police constable on duty, but he is appealing the case. His lawyer, Ranjit Singh, says the appeal is sufficient to act as a stay against Chua’s possible disqualification until the matter is disposed of by the court.

Currently, there are at least 18 Pakatan elected representatives under police investigation for various alleged offences, including illegal assembly and sedition. Should they be found guilty and sentenced to not less than a year’s jail, or a fine of RM2,000, they will lose their seat, according to Article 48(1) of the Federal Constitution.

Keeping the opposition in line

Many opposition elected representatives described the article, which had not been amended since independence, as a Sword of Damocles over them. For PKR vice-president R Sivarasa , who is still being investigated for illegal assembly and sedition, the article is nothing more than a political weapon the BN uses against the opposition lawmakers.

“In other countries, MPs will not lose their seat due to offences of a political nature. Disqualifying MPs because they speak up for people is not tolerated in a democratic country,” said the Subang MP when contacted by Malaysiakini.

Asked about DAP chairperson Karpal Singh’s reminder to Pakatan Rakyat MPs to avoid participating in illegal assemblies as the offence carries a minimum fine of RM2,000, Sivarasa said: “The intended effect of the article is to make MPs practise self-censorship, forcing us to bite our tongue when we want to say something, and stand away from the rakyat.”

Calculated risks

He conceded that he while he was mindful of the article when taking action that might be construed as breaking the law, his attitude was: “I try not to bother about it”.DAP Rasah MP Anthony Loke shares the same view that opposition lawmakers sometimes need to take calculated risks when taking any action.

“Of course we need to know our limits and whether what we are doing is really important… we have to know what the objective of the action is and be aware of the situation. But if it will help the rakyat, then we should do it,” said Loke in a phone interview with Malaysiakini.

Political career, perks on the line

The stakes are high for lawmakers if they fall foul of the article, as not only they will lose their salaries and perks, their pensions will be forfeited as well. Former lawmakers will also lose their pension if they exceed the maximum sentence, even though they have finished their tenure.

Furthermore, they will be deprived of political rights for five years after serving their sentence – they cannot contest in elections or assume posts in political parties. Many politicians see the five-year ban as the death knell for their political careers because they would miss two general elections and party polls as well.

This has happened to opposition MPs who have been rising fast in national politics.The famous cases include Fan Yew Teng, Lim Guan Eng and Wee Choo Keong. All three lost their seats due to Article 48(1).

However both Sivarasa and Loke (right) are confident that Pakatan representatives will not be affected by Chua’s case.

“Our track record speaks for itself. If we pull back, 80 or 90 percent of our actions would not have been done,” Sivarasa said.

For Loke, it was “part and parcel of Malaysian opposition politics”.

Nevertheless, Sivarasa agrees that abolishing Article 48 and other repressive laws, such as the Police Act and the Sedition Act, will establish more freedom for lawmakers.

Less risk for BN after three years

Another issue that has drawn the attention of some quarters is whether the cases of the 18 Pakatan representatives will drag on till after April 28 next year.

According to election laws, a by-election would only be called if a seat is declared vacant three years after the swearing in of a lawmaker. For the current Parliament, the cut-off date is April 28 , 2011.

Some political observers speculate that Chua was let off the hook due to BN’s fear of facing a by-election in Batu, which PKR won in last the general election with a 9,455 majority.

There is little doubt the BN will benefit if opposition lawmakers are charged and sentenced after the three-year period as BN will be able to reduce the opposition in Parliament without much worry.

“The BN can then recapture the two-thirds majority and build up momentum to face the next general election,” commented a political observer who requested anonymity.

After Chua, the next case will be that of PKR Padang Serai parliamentarian N Gobalakrishnan (left).He was found guilty of obstructing the police in an incident eight years ago and sentenced to a fine of RM3,000 or a six-month jail term.

His appeal is still pending. Besides the opposition, legal experts also agreed that Article 48(1) needed amending.

“From the perspective of the rakyat, Article 48(1) is too harsh, and puts the opposition in a difficult position.

“I don’t know whether (these cases) are coincidental or deliberately (done)… it appears to be a trend (that Article 48 is being abused to oppress the opposition),” commented Yeo Yang Poh, former Bar Council president.

Previous cases of opposition lawmakers disqualified under Article 48(1):

Fan Yew Teng (1977)

NONEFan (right) was a rising star in DAP when he was arrested in 1970 and later charged with sedition for publishing the speech of the then Penang DAP chairman, Dr Ooi Kee Saik, in the party’s newsletter.

Initially he was fined RM2,000 or six months’ jail but the court was ordered to rehear the case after he won his appeal to the Privy Council in United Kingdom.

When the case was heard again in 1975, Fan had been elected as Menglembu MP and Petaling state assemblyperson in the 1974 general election.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court again found him guilty and the Election Commission (EC) was quick to announce a by-election despite the fact that Fan had appealed to a higher court.

Two days before the polling day, the court ruled that the by-election was null and void, forcing the EC to cancel it.

Fan kept his seat until the Privy Council in 1977 upheld the High Court decision. However,no  by-election was called because the three-year period from the last general election had passed.He later left the country for further studies and quit DAP in 1978.

Lim Guan Eng (1998)

The current DAP secretary-general cum Penang chief minister was arrested in 1994 when he was Kota Melaka MP, following his criticism of the government’s handling of an allegation of statutory rape of a Malay minor by the then Malacca Chief Minister Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik.

Lim was charged under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for causing “disaffection with the administration of justice in Malaysia” and ‘”maliciously printing” a pamphlet containing alleged false information.

He lost his seat after being sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment despite a series of appeals. Due to the five-year ban, the DAP Youth chief missed two general elections until he was re-elected in the 2008 general election.

Wee Choo Keong (1995)

The current Wangsa Maju MP, who recently quit PKR and to become an Independent, was elected as Bukit Bintang MP in the 1995 general election under the DAP ticket.

His opponent, Lee Chong Meng from MCA, challenged his position after he was fined RM7,000 by the court for breaching a court injunction.

The injunction banned Wee (left) from making allegations against MBF after he made a police report claiming irregularities in the finance company.

The judge made a controversial decision to nullify his election victory and declared Lee as the legitimate MP, without calling for a by-election. However, Wee won his appeal to set aside the injunction in 2007, 12 years after he was disqualified.

Voices in Harmony

June 25, 2010


Dr. Kamsiah and I have chosen for your weekend entertainment to feature well know voices in harmony. We start with the sweethearts of the 1940s, The Andrew Sisters rendering Rum and Coca Cola (haram in Malaysia), followed by The Four Aces.

The Four Lads and The  Four Freshmen are next while The Platters with Lead Singer Tony Williams brings you a romantic number entitled Harbour Lights. Bean used to watch the fishing boats at Kuala Kedah when he was a teenager. We wonder what Frank was doing then.

Din remembers The Blue Diamonds, The Fifth Dimension (reminds him of his sojourn in the US in 1968-1970) and likes The Lettermen. Dr. Kamsiah likes The Bee Gees. Heard of Indonesia’s Koes Plus? Please have a good weekend with wonderful thoughts of time long gone.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Andrew Sisters

The Four Aces

The Four Lads

The Four Freshmen

The Platters

The Fifth Dimension

The Lettermen

The Bee Gees

The Blue Diamonds

Koes Plus

Day of Reckoning has come for Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim?

June 25, 2010

Day of Reckoning has come for Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim?

Yes, the day of reckoning  may have come for the recalcitrant Khalid Ibrahim, Selangor’s Menteri Besar since March, 2008. Call it a coup, mutiny or revolt if you like, but the fact is that Khalid has proven to be naive, ineffective and to top it all arrogant, aloof and inaccessible. These are qualities that  can ruin anyone’s political career.

Khalid’s political career is at risk. Maybe, he does not care because he has achieved his personal ambition. Maybe, he knows the tsunami (of 2008) will be not strike twice now that  the politically savvy and hard working Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, not NATO (No Action Talk Only) Abdullah Badawi, is in power.

These aforementioned attributes also do not make a good manager whose job is getting done through people. Even as a manager, Khalid will fail in these times when autocratic managers are  resented by an increasingly intelligent work force. Authoritarianism ended with the end of the Mahathir era in 2003. Today, people look to managers and leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ), courage and integrity.

Khalid was schooled in the traditions of the Tun Ismail Ali School of Management ( a term my friends and I as ex-Bank Negara officers used to describe the autocratic management style of  central bank governor  Ismail Ali in 1960s and 1970s). He served as PNB’s Chief Executive with Tun Ismail Ali as its legendary chairman.

Khalid is now too set in his ways and must now pay the price for his recalcitrance. It should, however, be remembered that Tun Ismail , a man of integrity and conviction, was already on the wane when Khalid worked with him. The Tun Ismail of late 1980s when Khalid joined PNB was not the man I served in the 1960s.

This revolt by PKR leaders and grassroots is a serious one. They feel that despite his pledge at the Kota Baru convention to do better, the Menteri Besar has abandoned their struggle for good governance.  The handling of the Semesta Sand issue using the Selcat mechanism turned out to be one big joke and an embarrassment to the PKR stalwarts and diehard supporters.

The general feeling is that PKR must do something dramatic (and demonstrate that it is serious about leading Pakatan Rakyat to Putrajaya), if Selangor is to remain in Pakatan Rakyat’s hands come the next General Elections.

President Wan Azizah and Ketua Umum Anwar Ibrahim are being to the test. Will they measure up to challenge having lost a number of Parliamentarians and State Assemblymen over the last year? In Parliament, there is now a new force, Konsensus Bebas.

My sources within PKR indicate that nothing much can be expected at the retreat this weekend. It will be just talk and Khalid will remain as Menteri Besar. That makes me wonder what the mutiny leaders will do next?

Wan Azizah has asked Khalid to appoint her close associate to replace the erudite and astute Nik Nazmi as political secretary to the Menteri Besar. She is also seen as the main backer of the besieged menteri besar together with a group of PKR Exco members who are obligated to Khalid.

As for Anwar Ibrahim, I have reason to believe that he will avoid getting involved in making this tough call against his  own appointee. He will not admit that he has made the wrong choice from the outset. I know for a fact that Anwar has ignored all complaints about Khalid from his inner circle, especially the brutally frank Member of Parliament from Telok Kemang and Anwar’s Malay College classmate, Dato Kamarul Bahrain Abbas.

The fallout from this would not, of course, lead to the demise of PKR, but it would in all probability result in Selangor reverting to UMNO-BN in the next elections if Khalid Ibrahim remains the Menteri Besar of Selangor. Will there more crossovers to Konsensus Bebas in Parliament and independent State Assemblymen? Well, your guess as good as mine.–Din Merican

COMMENT by Terence Netto:

Reasons behind Selangor PKR mutiny

There is not as much doubt as to whether there is a revolt brewing in PKR against Khalid Ibrahim’s stewardship as Selangor menteri besar as there is about the reasons for the mutiny.

Given the propensity of conspirators in the drama to ‘baling batu, sembunyi tangan’ (Malay for ‘fanning the flames but concealing the culprit’), and the disclaimers of Khalid’s cohort that rebellion is imminent, it is difficult to say for sure that two years of rumblings against the MB have reached ignition point.

But it’s not in doubt as to why he is unpopular among PKR state and federal legislators.The man is not a politician. He is blasé about the reality that politics is also about jobs, rewards and recognition for stalwarts who have struggled for the party in the teeth of repression by the powers-that-be.

Khalid likes to say that when he joined PKR in the middle of the past decade and was made its treasurer and then secretary-general, the party had only one MP and little in the kitty. On the face of it, that statement is true but if by that he meant that he came into the party when it was bare of representation and financial support, he would slight the early phase of PKR’s history which entailed struggles, deprivations and repression endured by its steadfast and early supporters. To this core of party faithful, Khalid, despite his status as a stellar entry into PKR, is a Johnny-come-lately.

Lack of political acumen

Though their perception of Khalid was out of sync with PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim’s parading Khalid as confirmation that Anwar’s decision to break away from UMNO in protest at its plutocratic emergence was sound, initially the dissonance did not matter.

PKR faithful understood that Anwar would want to seek vindication in Khalid’s breaking ranks with an establishment from which he hugely benefited.  However, the lack of synchronicity started to trouble when Khalid, after having lost on a PKR ticket in the Ijok state by-election in April 2007, expressed a preference to stand in Kapar in the March 2008 general election.

Kapar, in PKR’s reckoning, was the ideal staging ground for the party’s strategy of drawing away Indian support from MIC by fielding an Indian candidate to unseat the MIC incumbent. In the event, PKR’s S Manikavasagam, an ex-MIC Youth leader, was successful in toppling the MIC incumbent in the general election. Insignificant as that episode was, it depicted Khalid’s lack of appreciation of the larger PKR picture.

Party faithful strike back

Khalid compounded matters by talking to PAS’ Hasan Ali about the latter being deputy to him as MB on the day after the coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS won a comfortable majority of seats in Selangor in the March 8, 2008 general election.

PKR insiders were appalled because Hasan was reportedly propositioned by UMNO’s Dr Mohd Khir Toyo about a possible coalition between BN and PAS. The talks between Khir Toyo and Hasan reputedly broke down over who was to be menteri besar.

These miscues by Khalid, and the misgivings about him that this occasioned among PKR insiders, did not seem to give him pause.

Unperturbed, he proceeded as MB to do a fairly good job as CEO of the country’s most economically vibrant state, but still showed little appreciation of what PKR control of this entity implied for the party faithful.

The faithful are now striking back, it seems. If anything, Khalid’s saga suggests that corporate roles are poor preparation for political ones and vice versa, as former UMNO stalwart Musa Hitam is perhaps discovering in the Sime Darby imbroglio.

Whether a revolt against Khalid is set to go off or not, the upside to all this is the discovery that the worlds of politics and business are different realms. The twain do not fuse.

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.