FLASHBACK: Dr M oversaw PKFZ Land Valuation

July 31, 2010

FLASHBACK: Dr M oversaw PKFZ land valuation

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

November 5, 2009 – Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — Former transport minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik appeared to pass the buck over the costing and valuation of the Port Klang Free Trade Zone (PKFZ) land to his former boss, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

In the verbatim of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) meeting procedures released yesterday, Ling said his ministry could only “state the fact that we wanted the land.”

However, Ling pointed out that the costing and valuation of the land was determined by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) which was chaired by former prime minister and finance minister, Dr Mahathir.

“Our job in Ministry of Transport is to only state the fact that we want the land. Costings, valuations and all that, it is not the function of the Ministry of Transport. We do not have a Valuation Department.

“Costings and valuations is a question for the Treasury to deal with. They have the Valuation Department and everything is there, not in Ministry of Transport. I think Tun Dr Mahathir who chaired it, and he was the Finance Minister also. He saw it very clearly. That was the fact of the case,” he said in the verbatim.

Dr Mahathir has remained relatively silent on the scandal which could cost taxpayers RM12.453 billion.The PAC recommended yesterday that former transport minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy and former Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager Datin Paduka OC Phang be investigated for criminal breach of trust in the PKFZ scandal.

PAC reported that the government would have spent RM442.13 and saved RM645.87 million if the land had been acquired for PKFZ in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960.

It also reported that the cost of the land was RM47.76 per square foot, or 67 per cent higher than the RM25 fixed by the JPPH.

The 405ha PKFZ transhipment hub, which has warehouses, office blocks and a four-star hotel, has been dogged by controversy ever since it was revealed that its original development cost had ballooned from less than RM2.5 billion to up to RM4.6 billion.

There were also questions about the possible kickbacks after it was disclosed that several individuals acquired the piece of land where the PKFZ now sits at RM3 per sq ft in 1999.

Dr Mahathir had said that he heard that the project was being plagued by problems but claimed that nobody reported to him of any wrongdoing.

PKFZ ran into further problems when the management company, Jebel Ali Free Zone International, terminated its contract in 2007.

Chan was dropped as Barisan Nasional candidate for the last general election and subsequently lost his job largely due to the way the PKFZ debacle was handled.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also reported that the project outlay of RM4.947 billion will go up to RM7.453 billion due to interest payments and Port Klang Authority (PKA) must restructure the loan or it will balloon to RM12.453 billion by 2051.

Time to Relax after a heavy week

Mongkut Bean, Tok Cik, Tean Rean, Menyalak-er, and my wonderful blogging friends,

Believe me, we all have had a rough week  that ended with Tun Ling Liong Sik being charged for misleading Mahathir and his Cabinet (2002) on the land deal for Port Kelang Free Zone(PKFZ).

Deja Vu! PKFZ is back in the news, proving that Anwar Ibrahim’s revelation of this dark deal (in 2007) is fact, not fiction. I am in a celebratory mood at the prospect of finally seeing the entire 2002 Cabinet led by the  then top honcho in court to be grilled by Liong Sik’s lawyers.

I am  in a romantic mood as well. The oldies I have chosen reflect the way I feel right now. Dr. Kamsiah (above)did not participate in selecting this week’s repertoire of great melodies of a bygone era. Why? Because I  have chosen the tunes for her with lots of love, and  for the women (Kakrubi, Maureen, Kathy and others) who have contributed a lot to enliven and enlighten this blog. Have a good weekend. –Din Merican

Bing Crosby–That’s What Life Is All About

Paul Anka and Samy Davies JrI Am Not Anyone

Perry Como–And I Love You So

Matt Monroe–Born Free

Andy Williams–Love Story

Jerry Vale– I Have But One Heart

Venice in the Summer Time

Dean Martin–On An Evening In Roma

Not Sentimental About Ling Liong Sik

July 30, 2010

Not Sentimental About Ling Liong Sik

by SakmongkolAK47

I am not at all sentimental about Ling Liong Sik being charged in court. By sentimental here, I take it to mean, regretting or feeling sad that he is being charged.

In my previous article I merely asked how can it be possible that Ling Liong Sik was able to prepare cabinet papers for discussion. Or that his version of the price of land to be purchased was accepted without debate. In open court, cabinet notes and minutes will have to be submitted. Many people will salivate at the prospects.

It is impossible to infer that in previous meetings the subject of any land purchases by PKA and KDSB were not raised. It’s not like buying kacang puteh (peanuts).

I am precisely not being sentimental by raising the issue. Because then, that would make the whole cabinet which presided on that day, culpable. Ling’s lawyer must put every cabinet member deciding on that day, on the stand. And when that happens, if some people who are held in iconic esteem by some are placed in the dock, we don’t want any outpouring of protests- don’t, because you will be accused of being sentimental.

If that is the case, then we expect many would be charged. If I am being sentimental, I will say, come on, let Ling go because he is a former senior minister, because he was MCA’s boss and because he is now a Tun.  Also because he was actually PM for a few hours. That would be sentimental.

But to raise questions that would probably lead to others being in the same boat like Ling Liong Sik hardly qualifies being sentimental. Sometimes these young cikus need to be educated. You come back from Amerika, you think you are very clever!

I am willing to say, by allowing a very high profile individual be charged, Dato Seri Najib is showing a strong hand in this. He is signaling that he is fully committed to transparency and low tolerance of corrupt practices and abuse of power. People will say that all this is sandiwara (theatrical performance).

Who cares, because the most important thing, someone is now charged. The public wants this and this will help his credibility. If this is a start, PKR people need not shout here and there asking the government to rope in more people. That will come. What if other Tuns were to be treated in the same manner? Then I hope if there is public outcry, don’t say they are being sentimental.

Beyond that, we can expect other high profile people will be charged with a host of cases. Maybe now it’s time to restore indictment for the 18 high profile cases which Minister Rais Yatim once said. We need to tell Rais he shouldn’t hold back. Pressure the government to charge all the people in the 18 high profile cases. It is now also opportune for newly appointed senator Ezam Mohd Noor to reveal the contents of his Pandora’s boxes containing indisputable information on corruption. When  YB Ezam?

This is a right step. Charge first and let the accused have their day in court. Who knows we may learn many things if Ling Liong Sik intends to make amends. Provided of course, we are not told before hand by the AG that only ONE person is responsible for the PKFZ thing. Let’s not pre-determine the number of accused in this case.

PKFZ: Foolhardy to Ignore “Missing Links”

July 30, 2010


Ong Tee Keat: Foolhardy to ignore the “Missing Links”

I laud the decision of the Board of Port Klang Authority to hold back its final payment of RM222.584 million to Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd. (KDSB)’s special-purpose vehicle (SPV), Free Zone Capital (Bhd).

The payment is stipulated under the New Additional Development Work (NADW) agreement signed between KDSB and the Port Klang Authority (PKA). A total of RM522.584 million is due under NADW, of which RM300 million had already been paid in 2008 and 2009.

The final payment under NADW, due on July 31, 2010, should be withheld to avoid crossing the threshold of what KDSB is legally entitled to.

I have mentioned in my earlier blog that it goes against sound reasoning to make full and final payment when there is a clear dispute, amounting to at least RM83 million for fraudulent claims, such as the supply of 33kv to Precinct 2 and Precinct 8, which has yet to commence from Notice of Payment No 1 until the last Notice of Payment No 24.

port klang free zone 070607 signboardThe PKA Board has avoided the risk of a ‘hollow victory’, when monies paid cannot subsequently be physically recovered, when the courts rule in its favour.

The Board of PKA had yesterday demonstrated its integrity by making the correct but difficult decision in putting the interests of the government and taxpayers first, as against political interference.

The move to ensure that 1/3 of the Board members comprise independent directors not aligned to any political master, which was initiated during my tenure as Minister of Transport, has begun to bear fruit.

Call for sound reasoning

My hope turned to despair when I read that the current Transport Minister may exercise his ministerial prerogative to override PKA’s decision.

While I recognise that this is a minister’s privilege, the exercise of this right must be tempered with sound reasoning and more importantly, considered with the people’s interest in mind.

The justification behind the decision to “pay according to what has been decided much earlier, according to the schedule that was set a long time ago”, is a sweeping one and indeed foolhardy. It must be read in the light of the following:

a) The existence of new facts – the ‘missing link’ in the PriceWaterhourseCoopers Advisory Services (PwCAS) report, of letters revealing that KDSB had given undertakings or guarantees that it will cover any shortfall in repayments towards the bonds should PKA fail to do so;

b) The above supports the contention that the “Letters of Support” provided by my predecessors at the Ministry of Transport are not guarantees, and effectively releases the pressure from the government to pay the bonds. In other words, the government is under no direct legal obligation to pay the bondholders.

Dismissing unfounded fears

port klang 260209 01This is supported by the Parliamentary Hansard that recorded a Deputy Minister of Finance stating the same. The letters also do not comply with Section 14 of the Financial Procedures Act 1957 to be effective government guarantees;

c) The fear of negative repercussions to our sovereign rating is unfounded. The reported default of a RM240 million bond by Malaysian International Tuna Port Sdn Bhd. (MITP), a similar case, did not create much of a ripple in the market, as was last year’s one-week default in payment with regards to PKFZ; and

d) The bondholders are not privy to the principal agreements signed between PKA and KDSB. The SPVs’ right to payment are merely secured under the assignment, which is subject to what is lawfully due to KDSB under the principal agreements.

It makes absolute sense to withhold payments to the SPVs pending determination of what is lawfully due to KDSB by the courts.

I hope that the current minister and PKA have enough gumption to carry out the pledge to continue with the PKFZ probe.

There is at least RM1.4 billion in disputed claims for all principal agreements between KDSB and PKA, including the Land Agreement (LA), Development Agreements (DA) and Additional Development Agreements (ADW), of which more than RM2 billion is payable as scheduled until 2017.

Sweeping the dirt under the carpet this year will not make the problem go away.

ONG TEE KEAT is former Transport Minister and former MCA  President. This statement was originally published on his blog.

Mahathir and his 2002 Cabinet Crew: Collective Responsibility for PKFZ

July 30, 2003


Dr Mahathir and his 2002 Cabinet Crew should testify in Court: It is about Collective Responsibility for PKFZ

DAP’s veteran leader Lim Kit Siang asked if former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad or any of his ministers from the 2002 Cabinet would testify in court when it hears the case against former  Transport  Minister and MCA President Dr Ling Liong Sik?

Ling was accused of misleading the government into approving Port Klang Authority’s purchase of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) land with 15-year repayment with compound interest instead of 10 years.

“Who were the ministers in the 2002 Cabinet. The deputy prime minister was Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Other ministers who are still ministers include Najib Tun Razak, Muhyiddin Yassin, Hishammuddin Hussein, Nazri Abdul Aziz, Rais Yatim and Bernard Dompok.

“Other ministers then who are no longer in the cabinet include Rafidah Aziz, Azmi Khalid; three MCA ministers at the time, Chua Jui Meng, Fong Chan Onn, Ong Ka Ting, Lim Keng Yaik, S. Samy Vellu and Law Hieng Ding,” said Lim in a statement.

Still waiting for AG to act

The Ipoh Timor MP noted that as far back as three years ago in Parliament, during the budget debate in September 2007, he had focused on the main issues of the PKFZ scandal:

1. PKA’s purchase of 1,000 acres of Pulau Indah land from Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd for PKFZ at RM25 psf when the Treasury and Attorney-General’s Chambers proposed acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act at RM10 psf.

2. The ballooning of the PKFZ cost from RM1.1 billion to RM4.6 billion and its development costs from RM400 million to RM2.8 billion.

3. The four illegal “letters of support” by then transport ministers Ling and (former MCA deputy president) Chan Kong Choy for the RM4.6 billion bonds issued by KDSB through special purpose vehicles.

“These issues have not been adequately dealt with despite the promise by Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail last December and the country is still waiting for him to fulfill his pledge to leave no stone unturned to haul in the “big fish” implicated in the PKFZ scandal,” said Lim.

Yesterday, Ling was charged at the Sessions Court under Sections 417 and 418 of the Penal Code for cheating and could face a jail term if found guilty.

The 67-year-old medical doctor-turned-politician, who was bestowed with a Tun – the highest honorific title in the country – after his retirement in 2003, had pleaded not guilty.

The case, dubbed as the most high-profile corruption case in Malaysian history, would be mentioned in September. Ling, a long-time minister and MCA’s sixth president, was known to be close to Mahathir during his tenure in government.

The charge against Ling reads:

“That you, between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002, at Level 4 of the Prime Minister’s Office in Bangunan Perdana Putra, cheated the Government by deceiving the Cabinet into approving a land purchase in Pulau Indah for a Mega Distribution Hub project in Port Klang according to the terms agreed between Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd and Port Klang Authority which, among others, are:

1. The size of the land being 999.5 acres or 43,538,200 sq ft

2. The purchase price for the land being RM25 per sq ft amounting to a total of RM1,088,456,000

3. The repayment period being based on a “deferred payment” of 15 years with an interest rate of 7.5% per annum (total RM720,014,600), and thereby dishonestly hiding the fact that the valuation by the Valuation and Property Service Department on the land was RM25 per sq ft for a repayment period of 10 years or RM25.82 per sq ft for a repayment period of 15 years, including coupon/interest that could be charged for the repayment period.

And as such, you purposely induced the Cabinet to give its consent to the purchase, whereas the Cabinet would not have given its consent if the fact had been told to the Cabinet, and the fraud was committed with the knowledge that you could cause a loss to the Government, where you have an interest in the transaction pertaining to the fraud and you are bound under the law to protect it and, as such, you have committed an offence punishable under Section 418 of the Penal Code.”

On Objective Journalism: Zan Azlee’s Say

July 30, 2010


Objective Journalism is so yesterday!

by Zan Azlee

We always complain in Malaysia that journalism is never objective. Apparently, the government keeps a tight rein on the information that goes out to the public.

So all the news outlets (or shall I say the mainstream news outlets?) have a slant towards the ruling party, especially when it comes to political news. I, for one, used to complain all the time. I felt that, as a profession, journalism wasn’t going to develop, and neither would Malaysia as a nation because of it.

Even in the lectures that I give, I would constantly harp on about the importance of being objective as journalists. Give both sides of the story and let the people decide. I felt that there was no place for personal opinions and bias when it came to reporting the news. Leave that to the public relations practitioners!

But I think I’ve slowly come around, especially now with the Internet and mobile media being the go-to media. If you think about it, the value of journalism is fast dropping. If you’re in the profession, think about all those bloggers and amateur video makers.

They’re stealing your profession away from you because the technology is making it so accessible for them to do so. And they can do it well, too!

So if you think that you’re a pretty decent reporter, you may just find out very fast that your skill is no longer worth that much with these people around.

Look at the major news networks such as CNN and BBC. They are all now relying on citizen journalists and locals to provide them with the news. Why spend so much money sending a professional correspondent to some faraway country anymore?

Journalism needs to evolve to create new value

So, I think journalism needs to evolve to create new value. Maybe even go the way of being more artistic and expressionistic. Artists used to be highly prized by the community because they could paint portraits and replicate images.

Then the camera was invented and all the artists around the world found that they could not make a living anymore. But they evolved and found out that they could be even more valuable by putting more of themselves into their artwork.

Therefore, journalists should be more like artists. Be creative and insert some feelings into those stories, and leave the objective and boring reporting to the amateurs.

In this Information Age, everyone has access to all kinds of information and, well, objective news is becoming so abundant.So spice it up a bit. Be a little biased (I think creative is a better word!) and put some of your thoughts and opinions into those stories.

Huffington Post, Slate.com, Jay ‘Big Jaw’ Leno, Jon Stewart et.al

There’s so much evidence that this is what the journalism profession needs to ensure that they continue to be valid. Just look at news sites such as The Huffington Post and Slate.com. Their style of journalism is an evolved one and is clearly successful.

In fact, many people these days (myself included) don’t even go to the news media for their dose of information. They actually refer to comedians!That’s why comedy talk shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or sites like The Onion are so popular.

Putting emotions and passion into news stories isn’t wrong or unethical in my opinion now. Just make sure that you don’t hide the facts.So I guess that means the Malaysian mainstream news media has clearly been ahead of their time. They can definitely be successful in this new age of journalism.

It’s just ridiculous that they (msm) continue to insist (or pretend) that the journalism they practise is objective.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Straight Talking Benigno Aquino III has ruffled some diplomatic feathers

July 30, 2010

Straight Talking Benigno Aquino III has ruffled some diplomatic feathers

by John Teo

NEW Philippine President Benigno Aquino III seems to have developed a reputation, after just weeks into his presidency, for straight talking. While that may be a welcome change to Filipinos tired of all the doubletalk and double dealing that pass for politics in the country, it may not go down too well in the arena of international diplomacy.

Already, Aquino has ruffled some diplomatic feathers by failing to acknowledge that Japan is in fact his country’s top aid donor.

Malaysia seems to be also at the receiving end of the Philippine president’s rather impolitic talking style. Asked if Indonesia would be roped in to assist in mediating the stalled talks between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, Aquino was tellingly non-committal.

In answer to a press question, Aquino said Indonesia, like Malaysia, would be considered for the role and he had to request either country if it would consider to take it on. His seemingly innocuous answer perhaps inadvertently betrayed partiality towards a strain in Philippine official thinking that has always viewed Malaysia’s role as mediator in the talks as “problematic”, often citing unresolved claims over Sabah as somehow compromising Malaysia’s neutrality.

That sort of answer also hardly appears to be a ringing endorsement of what Malaysia has so far done in mediating the conflict. We have brought both sides to the conflict not just to the table in tortuous negotiating sessions but facilitated their reaching a final draft agreement.

That draft agreement on ancestral domain was a breakthrough in incorporating provisions for substantive and real political autonomy for Muslims in Mindanao within the Philippine state, in contrast to the largely paper autonomy that the Philippine government conceded to the Moro National Liberation Front in an earlier agreement forged under Indonesian auspices, an agreement now little more than a farce in practice.

The Malaysian-brokered agreement was also widely acclaimed by the international community, as evidenced by the contingent of Manila-based ambassadors representing the Philippines’ largest aid donors and led by the United States that descended on Kuala Lumpur to witness the signing of the draft agreement; a ceremony which was aborted at the eleventh hour by a restraining order from the Philippine Supreme Court.

Malaysia has, in the interim and while the Philippines went through a change of government, not said or done anything publicly to indicate it is giving up on the mediating role, frustrating though it naturally is to have brought both sides this close to actual agreement only to see it come apart at the last minute.

It will be understandably disappointing for us that apart from not acknowledging what Malaysia has already done to help forge peace in Mindanao, President Aquino has in effect dealt us a slap by leaving open the option that Malaysia will be replaced as mediator. If at all he should publicly comment on the matter, he ought to have said his government would seek an agreement with the MILF about who should be the mediator for renewed talks.

Malaysia’s role as mediator or any other country’s, for that matter, is contingent upon a joint request from both disputing parties — the Philippine government and the MILF. Malaysia cannot take it on even with an official Philippine government invitation unless an invitation is also forthcoming from the MILF.

Now it seems Malaysia is being put in the uncomfortable position of having its impartiality as peace mediator seemingly compromised by loose talk, through no fault of ours.

Aquino has in recent days also stated that there is no going back to the aborted draft agreement and blamed his predecessor for foisting that agreement on the country, with less than honourable motivations to boot. There can, of course, be no telling if the previous administration cynically acceded to the draft agreement knowing full well it could not or would not sell it to the Filipino public at large.

The stance of the Aquino administration stands diametrically opposed to the MILF’s, in that renewed talks must now take the draft agreement as the starting point. And the MILF has publicly stated also that it will not agree to Malaysia being replaced as mediator.

Helping to forge peace in other lands is a noble and worthy cause which we should rightly pursue and persevere in no matter how frustrating and thankless it is. But lest we be seen to be overly keen to remain mediator or worse, to be regarded as partial to either one party, and to avoid being sucked into the treacherous undercurrents of Philippine domestic politics, we must scrupulously not move in any way until a renewed joint invitation from the Philippine government and the MILF is forthcoming.

Kejayaan Melayu di Singapura hasil usaha sendiri

July 29, 2010


Kejayaan Melayu di Singapura hasil usaha sendiri

Top Malay General in SAF

PENCAPAIAN masyarakat Melayu/Islam Singapura adalah hasil usaha mereka sendiri – menerusi kerja keras dan kesungguhan – selaras dengan nilai meritokrasi.

Tiada bantuan khas mahupun layanan istimewa daripada pemerintah yang membantu memacu kemajuan Melayu/Islam di sini. Namun, walau perlu bersaing dalam sekitaran yang begitu sengit, masyarakat Melayu tidak mahu mencapai kemajuan dengan cara lain.

Dalam ucapannya di majlis Anugerah Jauhari di Hotel Shang-ri La semalam, Editor Berita Harian/Berita Minggu, Encik Guntor Sadali, berkata asas pembangunan Melayu Singapura sejak 45 tahun lalu adalah berlandaskan prinsip berdikari.

‘Kita tidak mahu disuap atau terlalu bergantung kepada pemerintah. Dalam erti kata lain, masyarakat kita menolak sikap menopang (crutch mentality),’ ujar beliau dalam majlis yang dihadiri lebih 300 pemimpin dan tokoh masyarakat daripada pelbagai bidang.

Turut hadir di majlis yang mengiktiraf Jauhari masyarakat Melayu itu ialah Menteri Tenaga Manusia, Encik Gan Kim Yong.

Intipati ucapan Encik Guntor itu ialah sebagai respons kepada teguran mantan Perdana Menteri Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, baru-baru ini supaya Melayu di negaranya tidak ditimpa nasib yang sama seperti Melayu Singapura.

Menurut Encik Guntor, komen sedemikian sering dilemparkan kepada masyarakat Melayu di sini, bukan sahaja daripada Dr Mahathir, malah sesetengah pemimpin lain di seberang Tambak.

Tetapi beliau menggesa masyarakat supaya tenang. “Masyarakat kita kini sudah berubah daripada 45 tahun lalu. Kita telah membangunkan identiti dan falsafah hidup sendiri yang berbeza daripada saudara kita di seberang Tambak.”Kita mungkin pakai baju yang sama, makan makanan yang sama, bertutur bahasa yang sama dan mengamalkan budaya yang sama. Tapi persamaan kita berhenti di situ,” katanya.

Beliau menegaskan bahawa Melayu Singapura pastinya tidak mahu dilabel sebagai malas dan manja. Lantaran itulah masyarakat Melayu bekerja keras untuk mengumpulkan sendiri dana bagi membina masjid dan madrasah, dan kini boleh berbangga sebagai pemilik bangunan-bangunan tersebut.

Menerusi usahanya sendiri juga, Melayu Singapura boleh berbangga dengan peranannya membantu anggota-anggota masyarakat yang memerlukan sama ada dari segi kewangan, pendidikan dan latihan pekerjaan.

Menurut Encik Guntor, komen Dr Mahathir itu mungkin merujuk kepada kuasa politik Melayu di sini. Namun, beliau menekankan bahawa Melayu Singapura tidak menyamakan kuasa dengan menghunus keris. Sebaliknya, Melayu di sini berpendapat ilmu itulah kuasa sejati.

“Anak-anak kita menghadiri sekolah yang sama dengan kanak-kanak lain dengan tujuan menerima pendidikan menyeluruh dan mencapai keputusan yang baik. Memang mencabar, seperti kanak-kanak lain, anak-anak kita tidak ada pilihan lain selain bekerja keras. Inilah realiti kehidupan di Singapura yang kita terima. Pastinya tiada jalan mudah untuk mencapai kejayaan” ujar beliau.

Encik Guntor akur walaupun semakin ramai Melayu yang kini memegang jawatan profesional, tetap ada sogolongan Melayu yang masih ketinggalan.

Walaupun demikian, beliau menegaskan bahawa masyarakat enggan menerima layanan istimewa kerana ia hanya akan merendahkan nilai pencapaian Melayu sehingga terpijak maruahnya.

“Meritokrasi ternyata sistem yang baik dan adil. Ia mendorong kita bekerja keras dan berbangga dengan pencapaian kita. Bagi masyarakat Melayu Singapura, kita tidak boleh memandang ke belakang,” ujarnya.

PKFZ: Tun Ling Liong Sik charged

July 29, 2010


PKFZ Scandal: Tun Ling Liong Sik charged

Former transport minister Tun Ling Liong Sik is to be charged at the Putrajaya Sessions Court over his involvement in the multi-billion ringgit Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.

Ling, who is also former MCA president, is by far the most prominent politicians to be nabbed for corruption in recent years.

Rumours of a very important personality (VIP) to be charged have sent dozens of journalists, included those from foreign wire services, camping at the court complex early this morning.

Most of them gathered at the lobby and main entrance of the courthouse. while a couple have stationed themselves in and outside the courtroom.

At 4pm, attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail and three DPPs, including head of prosecution Tun Abdul Majid Hamzah, arrived in court without speaking to the journalists. The other two were Manoj Kurup and Dzulkifli Ahmad.

Ling appeared in court at 4.45pm accompanied by his wife Ena and two sons. He proceeded to sit in the dock.

It is believed that the charge is related to the troubled multi-billion ringgit Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.

Last November, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had recommended in its report on the PKFZ controversy that former transport minister Chan Kong Choy and former Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager OC Phang be probed for CBT (criminal breach of trust).

This was over the wrongful issuance of three letters of support by Chan and three letters of undertaking by Phang without Finance Ministry approval.

PAC said that it was informed by the attorney-general that the letters were implicitly a form of guarantee from the government to ensure that there would be allocations for PKA to enable it to meet its obligations under the development agreement.

PKFZ, a commercial and industrial project south of the capital, was conceived as a RM1.82 billion venture constructed over 1,000 acres.

However costs are now expected to balloon to RM12.5 billion, making the affair one of the country’s biggest financial scandals and a major embarrassment for the government.

Probes into the project’s financial records since then have revealed instances of corruption, cases of conflict of interest as well as breach of trust.

Ling is one of the very rare top politicians in Malaysia to be charged with corruption.

In 2004, former land and cooperative development minister Kasitah Gaddam was charged in the Sessions Court with corrupt practice and cheating, the first cabinet member to be charged with such crimes. He was freed by the court without his defence being called last year.

Another top politician who was charged for corruption was the late Harun Idris, the Selangor menteri besar from 1964 to 1976. He was slapped with a six-year jail sentence but served three years behind bar before being pardoned by the King in 1981 on the advice of then new prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

SARAWAK: NCR Land Issue Unresolved

July 29, 2010


SARAWAK NCR Land Issue remains unresolved

By Joseph Tawie

It took 47 years for the government to decide to survey native customary rights (NCR) land, issue titles and return the land to the rightful owners. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak allocated RM20 million to carry out the survey works.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud should have made the announcement instead of Najib as land matters come under the purview of the state. So, why did Najib make the announcement? And why did Taib refuse all this while to survey NCR land?

Najib made the decision last week after visiting Long Banga, Baram, an interior seldom visited even by Sarawak state ministers. He must have heard about the Dayaks’ grouses after he took over as prime minister last year. To learn more about their problems, he sent his Sarawakian minister Idris Jala to seek the truth. And based on Jala’s reports, Najib announced the decision.

It not only caught state government leaders by surprise, it also embarrassed them. But Najib does not seem to care; his federal government’s survival depends on solving the problem. To continue to occupy Putrajaya, he must win over the Dayak-majority parliamentary constituencies. There are 23 Dayak majority and Dayak-mixed constituencies.

The decision puts great pressure on the state government to survey the NCR land. It must show support and react immediately.Thus, the state government issued a press statement not only to concur with the prime minister’s announcement but also to say that Taib’s government has approved a new NCR land initiative.

“The initiative has been approved by the government in order to come up with a faster approach to provide security to NCR land and enhance the economic well-being of landowners,” Taib said in a statement.

“NCR land is an issue that is close to the hearts of our people. As such, this joint initiative between the state and the federal governments is to help the people create value to their idle land while at the same time addressing their concerns about the long-term security of their NCR land,” he added.

Up till that point, the state government not only ignored the cries of the Dayaks for their NCR land to be surveyed and given titles, but it also went ahead and grabbed the land and leased them to family members and crony plantation companies.

The government legitimised its actions by amending the Sarawak Land Code several times, and each time it made it very difficult for the natives to claim their customary rights over their ancestral land.

And the most devastating amendment to the Land Code was made in May 2000, especially to Section 5. Section 5 (a) (2) (i) was amended by substituting the word “acquired” wherever it appears in the subsection with the word “created”.

On the surface of it, the amendment looks innocent. But if you analyse it carefully, it is very destructive to the NCR landowners. Prior to the amendment, NCR land can be passed from one generation to the next — from father to son and his children’s children, and so on. The land that has been acquired by any other means by the family always belongs to the family and its generation.

NCR land could be acquired through the following methods:

  • felling virgin jungle and occupying the cleared land;
  • planting land with fruit trees; and occupying it;
  • using the land for a burial ground or shrines;
  • using land of any class for right of way; and/or
  • using any other lawful means.

Delaying tactics

Emphasis is on the word “acquired” which was substituted with the word “created”. This can result in the termination of customary rights over such land, as only the “creator” shall have such rights over the land. And after his death, the land shall be reverted to the government if the descendents are unable to provide proof for such a claim. Such a land will be known as “state land”.

No doubt you can claim the land, provided you can prove that your great-great forefathers created the

Bruno Manser: Laki Penan

rights over the land. The onus is therefore on the claimants. And very few people can prove it. They can depend only on “tuai rumah” (longhouse headman) or penghulus to be their witnesses. But the headmen and penghulus have been warned by the government not to simply endorse such land as NCR land or else they will be in trouble – their appointment can be terminated or they can even go to jail.

Bringing the case to court will incur large sums of money. Putting a deposit as required by the court will cost RM10,000, and what about the legal fees? Even if you have the money, it will take time for the court to make a decision; assuming you win in the High Court, the state government can appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Again assuming you win, the state makes another appeal to the Federal Court. The case of Madeli Salleh gives us the best example. All in all, it takes from 10 to 20 years for the case to be settled. This is the government’s strategy – delaying tactics.

All these are a great disadvantage to the Dayaks when the NCR land is not titled. Any time the government wants their land, it is difficult for them to fight back, especially when Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, Sarawak’s second minister of resource planning and management, announced the government’s policy on land on June 16, 2005. He said “all lands not surveyed or any land not issued a land title, including lands under NCR, are government lands”.

As a result of this policy, the government has acquired practically all the good lands from Limbang to Baram, Bintulu, Miri, Sibu, Kapit, Betong, and Simanggang, and from Samarahan to Kuching Divisions. And all these lands totalling1,268,888.161 hectares have been approved or earmarked for plantation estates, according to the 2005 third-quarter reports of the Land and Survey Department.

The bulk of these lands are NCR land which are to be planted with oil palm, rubber, banana and sago. The majority of all these go to Taib’s family members and cronies.

According to the “Laporan Statistik Suku Ketiga Tahun 2005 Bagi Tanah Ladang” prepared by the Land and Survey Department in Kuching, Taib’s brother-in-law Robert Ganid has been given 16,000ha in Sungai Ensengai, Samarahan Division. It was approved in May 2004. The company’s name is Lambang Sinar Mas Sdn Bhd.

Narodeen Majais, assistant minister in the Chief Minister’s department, had his application for 16,486ha approved between March 1996 and February 1998. The application was made under a number of companies such as Pelita Nirwana Muhibbah (4,555ha at Tg Midin, Serian), Gedong Plantation (3,770ha at Btg Karang, Serian), Hydroflow Sdn Bhd (2,775ha between Btg Sadong and Sungai Simunjan and Gedong) and Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd (1,906ha at Tg Embang, Simunjan).

Syed Abu Bakar Almohdzar’s companies — Melur Gemilang Sdn Bhd and Kumpulan Kris Jati Sdn Bhd — were given a provisional lease to develop 23,744ha between Sungai Simunjan Kanan and Btg Sadong.

Deputy Minister Alfred Jabu’s family members and cronies also received a provisional lease to plant oil palm. Utahol Sdn Bhd, a company owned by Jabu’s son, Gerald Rentap, was given approval to plant 6,900ha in Ulu Medamit, Limbang.

Jabu’s nephew, Robert Lawson Chuat, had been given a provisional lease to plant 3,665ha with oil palm at Batu Api, Betong and 1581.8ha at Tg Bijat, Simanggang. His company is Durafarm Sdn Bhd.

Henry Jantun, closely associated with Jabu, has also been granted a lease to plant oil palm in 2,873ha between Btg Lupar and Btg Layar, Betong, and 2,127ha at Tg Bijat, Simnaggang, under the name of Everherald Sdn Bhd. On top of that, his company had also been given 2,000ha between Betong and Simanggang for integrated farming.

The government also approved provisional leases to big companies like Bintulu Lumber Development Sdn Bhd, Sarawak Oil Palm Bhd, Tabung Haji, Saremas, KTS, Green Ace Resources, RH Plantation, Samling Plantation, and Shin Yang Oil Palm Sdn Bhd, to name a few.

There are also government-linked companies like Pelita (Land Custody Development Authority), Sarawak Land Development Board and Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority that have been given provisional leases to develop the land for the planting of oil palm.

Legal wrangles

Almost all of these companies have problems with the natives whose NCR lands are within the areas given to them. Besides mounting blockades, the natives are also suing them and the government. For now, there are 203 cases still pending in the High Court.

Who is actually to be blamed for the blunder? Surely it is the government because it has misled the companies into believing that the lands are state lands. Naturally these companies come in and pay their land premium; then they start to clear the land off trees, shrubs and thick bushes. In the process, they also destroy the natives’ rubber trees, fruit trees, and cash crops. Certainly the natives are furious.

Lodging reports with the police are useless because the police cannot take action. These companies are armed with provisional leases and claim to have the right to fell trees or fruit trees in the stated area. Although the natives claim that the lands belong to them, they are put at a disadvantage as they have no land titles to prove that the lands are theirs.

So confrontation begins between the companies and the natives. As land is their life, the natives will not bow to any pressure. Instead, they will resort to setting up blockades because the authorities have failed to help them.

In the meantime, they seek the services of legal firms with a view to stopping (these companies from encroaching their lands) and claiming damages. When some companies from Peninsular Malaysia know that there are such things as NCR land, they abandon the project and leave. But for those who think they have the right, they stay on and find themselves in court. So far the natives have won all the 20 cases that have been settled in the High Court. Many of these companies have spent a colossal amount of money paying lawyers, court costs, and compensations.

The courts have made it clear that NCR land should include “pulau galau” (communal forest), “pemakai menua” (territorial domain), “temuda” (farming land) and “tembawai” (old sites of longhouses).

“This decision was confirmed by the Federal Court when it decided the case of Madeli bin Salleh vs the state government in 2007, which was based on the Nor Anak Nyawai case in 2001,” said Baru Bian, a prominent NCR land lawyer.

“This is the land that they must survey and give titles to,” said Baru, who is the chairman of Sarawak PKR, pointing out that the state government has a different definition of customary right lands.

“What I want to hear loud and clear now from the chief minister is he will make an undertaking to the people of Sarawak to survey all NCR land. This is what we want to hear from the state government.

“There should be no political rhetoric. The Dayaks are rebelling,” he said, urging the government to allocate more money as RM20 million is insufficient to carry out survey works.

But there are questions that beg answers: Why did the government suddenly decide to survey all NCR land? Is it a political gimmick to win the hearts and minds of the rural people before the state election?

James Masing, State Land Development Minister, who knows the general thinking of the public, says that the announcement made by Najib is not a political gimmick. It is real, he said.

The BN government knows that the coming election is crucial and it considers the rural areas as its “fixed deposit”. Thus, it is no wonder that it made the promise to survey all NCR land. In the urban constituencies, it has more or less been confirmed that BN is in big trouble.

The natives have already made up their minds, especially those who have suffered so much over the last 10 years. And following rampant abuses of their NCR land, the landowners have realised the gravity of their problems and are united in their stand.

They have banded and formed the NCR Land Owners Association. This association works closely with Suhakam, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association and other NGOs. Together they are prepared to highlight their problems at international forums, including the United Nations.

And the opposition Pakatan Rakyat is certain to use the NCR land issue as its main topic in the rural areas in the coming state election. It has promised landowners that in the event of an opposition victory, NCR land will be returned to the owners. This is what worries Najib.

Mahathir takes on Anwar, Blair and the Media

July 29, 2010

Mahathir takes on his Detractors

by Aidila Razak & Richard Loo Wai Hoong @http://www.malaysiakini.com (July 28, 2010)

Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad killed three birds with one stone when he delivered the keynote address at the Asian Bloggers and Social Media Conference this morning.

True to character, Mahathir who is a regular blogger, managed to hit out at several of his detractors albeit without mentioning names. On the receiving end was “a Malaysian politician” – evidently Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (left) – who was mocked in an example of how blogs surpass global boundaries.

Mahathir said that, with the advent of blogs, the foreign media appear to be having second thoughts about this individual.

“There is a Malaysian politician who is praised by the foreign press most of the time because (they) want to see a regime change in Malaysia,” he told an audience of about 200. Now they seem to be changing their minds (through) their writing in blogs about this person.”

Thanks to blogs, he said, it is now known that “so-and-so has been involved in activities detrimental to the nation”.

Mahathir, who was escorted into the hall by Berjaya CEO Vincent Tan, again expertly dragged Anwar into the fray when commenting on the importance of telling the truth when blogging. He illustrated his point by explaining why he has not taken legal action against author Barry Wain, who had claimed that Mahathir ‘squandered’ RM100 billion during his 22-year tenure as prime minister.

“People ask me if I want to sue. The process of law is long and can go on for years. For example, (in) one case in Malaysia , a trial (is being) held up due to delaying tactics by a person concerned,” he said.

This is a likely reference to Anwar’s ongoing sodomy trial which has been stretched out due to several applications by the defence.

The only person with the ‘privilege’ of being named outright was former British prime minister Tony Blair (right), who was branded a “liar” for declaring war against Iraq.

“This liar was invited to speak on how to achieve things. He was paid RM1 million to tell (a group of ‘Malaysian achievers’ and) teach them how to lie,” he said of a pet subject.

Taste of his own medicine

The media was not left unscathed as Mahathir, often criticised for imposing media blackouts while in office, complained about “getting a taste of my own medicine”.  However, he claimed that gag orders in his time had been issued with “good intentions”, unlike those imposed by “others who have bad intentions towards (me)”.

Mahathir said he started blogging when he fell out of favour with “some editors” and that he is now “shocked” to know that even Israelis are reading his blog.  “I get some Zionists getting angry with me over what I say but they have a right to be angry, just as I have a right to be angry with them,” he said.

In supporting freedom of speech, Mahathir said the only thing that should be censored on the Internet is pornography.  This is because easy access to pornography has led to a rise in sex crimes in Malaysia, particularly among “young and excitable people”.

“Imagine a teenager seeing all this filthy pornography and he gets worked up, and the next thing he sees is an old lady or a baby and he needs to get rid of his tension.

“I went (in) to see (if the material is easily accessible) for my education. You put ‘sex’ in Yahoo and all types of filth came through,” he said, to much amusement.

More than 400 participants are expected over the two-day conference in Kuala Lumpur. It features discussions on freedom of speech and the legal ramifications of blogging.

Record 2010 Growth for Singapore’s Economy

July 29, 2010

Singapore’s Economy: Record high growth of around 15% in 2010

(AP) Singapore expects its economy to soar 15 percent this year after a record expansion in the second quarter that suggests Asia’s recovery from the global recession remains on track.

Gross domestic product for April through June grew 19.3 percent from a year earlier when the economy was shrinking because of the global recession, the Trade and Industry Ministry said Wednesday. The growth was the fastest since the government began releasing quarterly GDP figures in 1975.

The Ministry raised its forecast for the city-state’s economic growth this year to a range of 13 percent to 15 percent from the previous forecast of 7 percent to 9 percent. It also raised its forecast for export growth as global demand has stayed strong amid Europe’s debt and fiscal crisis.

“This should reinforce the view that fears from the eurozone crisis may be exaggerated,” DBS Bank said in a report.

Singapore, which has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world, is the first Asian economy to announce GDP results for the April-to-June quarter. The tiny island nation is often seen as a barometer of world demand because its economy – built on manufacturing and services like finance – is one of the most export-reliant in Asia.

Manufacturing in the April-June quarter recorded explosive growth of 45.5 percent compared with a year earlier.

“Growth was driven by a surge in the output of biomedical manufacturing, as well as a strong expansion in electronics underpinned by healthy worldwide demand,” the Ministry said in a statement.

Construction grew 13.5 percent while services expanded 11.4 percent. The opening of two casino resorts this year by Las Vegas Sands and Malaysia’s Genting have helped attract record visitors.

Tourists and locals alike are buying more. Mastercard said its cardholders spent 23 percent more last month from a year earlier amid the start of an annual nationwide retail sale.

The Ministry revised first-quarter GDP growth to 16.9 percent from 15.5 percent. The second quarter results were preliminary, based on data from April and May. On an annualized and seasonally adjusted basis, the economy grew 26 percent in the second quarter.

The economy will likely slow in the second half of the year as the U.S. and Europe battle high unemployment and fiscal austerity measures.”The momentum of the global economic recovery has moderated, although a double-dip recession remains unlikely,” the Ministry said.  Citigroup said it expects Singapore’s economy to grow 15.5 percent this year and 4.6 percent next year.

Foreign Investment soars in Indonesia: Right Politics and Macroeconomic Stability

July 29, 2010

Foreign Investment in Indonesia soars

FOREIGN investment in Indonesia soared 46 per cent in the first six months of the year, an official said on Wednesday (July 28,2010) as confidence in the country continued to grow after the global financial crisis.

Foreigners committed 71 trillion rupiah (S$10.8 billion) in South-east Asia’s biggest economy, Investment Board chief Gita Wirjawan said.

A total of 92.9 trillion rupiah had been invested in the country in the six months to July, including money from local investors, he added. ‘The increase showed investors’ confidence in Indonesia’s investment climate and its macroeconomic stability,’ Mr Wirjawan was quoted as saying by Dow Jones Newswires.

For the April-June period alone, actual investment rose 56 per cent from the previous corresponding period to 50.8 trillion rupiah. Foreign direct investment during the three months increased 53 per cent on-year to 35.6 trillion rupiah, while investment by domestic companies grew 63 per cent.

Analysts said the data show government efforts to improve the domestic investment climate have been paying off. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has vowed to remove ‘bottlenecks’ to investment to help the country post seven per cent growth by the end of his final term in 2014, compared with 5.5 per cent this year. — AFP

The Ugly Side of the Malaysian Civil Service

July 28, 2010



The Ugly Side of the Malaysian Civil Service

The Model MCS Officer: Nik Ali

Not too long ago, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak cautioned the nation that “we cannot have Little Napoleons who do not understand innovation”. His implied warning is that these pests would mess things up and stall the country’s march to a brave world yonder.

But who are these pesky officers who dare to throw the spanner into the wheels of development? The people have read and heard much about them and their haughty ways, but they seldom make it to the headlines. They work behind the desks in a fog of imperial authority which even their political bosses cannot fathom or discern. They are power centres onto themselves who call the shots.

Then recently, and at last, one of the bugs hits the newsstands: “We have exposed a Little Napoleon.” Who is he? He turned out to be a federal officer who is working in Penang, which is under the control of the opposition. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng tore the veil from him and showed him up to public scrutiny.

How does he look (See Picture)? A typical government servant. What ensued was an ugly spat that raises a disturbing question: If a minion can treat a chief minister with contempt, who can protect the ordinary people from the likes of him? The people cannot remove him because he was not elected to represent them. So the little fellow can do as he pleases. In his warped mind, he arrogates power to himself and can dispense or withhold even government funding. Throw the Federal Constitution book at him and he will dump it in the dustbin.

The strange thing about this Napoleon affair is that once it is held up to light, it does not evoke the wrath of the federal government. Najib talked about these annoying underlings in the civil service but when a real one is caught, the prime minister did not promptly take out the screwdriver to adjust this recalcitrant cog in the machine. Instead, he and his like-minded mates threw a loving arm around the culprit and even sang his praises. Why? This is not hard to decipher. It’s all about politics – and Little Napoleons are essential to serve a political purpose, especially when a state is ruled by an opposition party.

It is therefore all right to call a chief minister whatever derogatory names you care to plaster him: biadap (rude), crude, pig-headed, stinking snob, a clod – all these and more as long as he is not one of us or politically correct. It is becoming painfully clear that Little Napoleons are the unelected representatives who are there to cause misery to the common people and more so to the opposition. If they can wreak havoc to the extent of crippling a state government, they are doing a fine service to the ruling party.

Ours is an adversarial system of government: the enemies, even if they head a government, must be vilified and run to the ground. The solution is stark and clear: to defeat Little Napoleons, you must defeat them at Little Waterloos – small battles where they will be exposed to public ridicule and hounded out of their foxholes.

Lord Patten: What’s Oxford Doing?

July 28, 2010

by Joseph Sipalan @http://www.malaysiskini.com (July 26, 2010)

Oxford University's Lord Patten

Taib Mahmud and Oxford’s Said Business School: Partnership with Corrupt Leader from Sarawak

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud gave protestors the slip when he arrived at Oxford University’s Said Business School in London, where he was suppose to deliver a keynote address at a forum.

azlanAccording to reports by freelance journalist Anil Netto, between 30 to 40 protestors, mostly Britons and a handful of Malaysians, had camped outside two entrances to the hall where the forum was to take place.

However, Taib did not use these entrances and it is believed that he entered via a side entrance instead.

According to Netto, the protestors were unable to enter the forum venue due to the exorbitant British pound 1,000 entrance fee.

Protestors were seen wielding placards bearing messages such as “Any forest left?”, “Stop denying Penan rape” and “Declare your wealth“.

30 years of iron grip

Activists from the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), who called Taib “one of Southeast Asia’s (most corrupt) politicians”, have sent out emails since Saturday garnering support for the protest that they plan to stage at the Said Business School’s entrance.

protest against taib mahmud in oxford university londonThe longstanding Sarawak chief minister was invited to deliver the opening address at the school’s inaugural Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum this morning, London time.

The BMF in an email statement said Oxford has tarnished its reputation by inviting Taib to speak at the forum, claiming the chief minister had pillaged and plundered Sarawak for his own gains during his past three decades in office, at the expense of Sarawakians.

protest against taib mahmud in oxford university london“During his 30 years of iron grip, Taib Mahmud has systematically plundered a country once rich in natural resources, oil and timber. He and his family are now multi-billionaires, while indigenous tribes such as the legendary jungle nomads, the Penan, have been left destitute and robbed of their rightful hunting grounds,” it said.

“Taib Mahmud has laughably advertised his UK visit as a promotion of ‘green development’ in Sarawak and will be focusing on the promotion of Islamic and Halal products, his latest venture, during his visit to Oxford.”

Taib going green?

The BMF attacked Abdul Taib’s management of Sarawak, accusing him of destroying “all but three percent of the Borneo jungle in the state”.

“Numerous species including the orang utan, proboscis monkey and a plethora of unique plant and animal life have been virtually wiped out by his rapacious and unsustainable plunder of the jungle.

NONE“The Penan are struggling to keep his loggers out of the last corners of their jungle, one of the most precious remaining areas of bio-diversity left on earth.”

The BMF, which has been fighting for Penan rights since Bruno Manser founded it in 1991, also slammed Abdul Taib for refusing to “acknowledge or investigate” recent reports of alleged systematic rape and abuse of Penan women.

It also accused Taib of using his family and cronies to “illegally” take over the state’s resources through privatisation, and issuing oil palm and timber concessions following arbitrary state acquisition of native land.

“He now runs the state as a family business, maintained through systematic electoral intimidation and fraud.

“The people of Sarawak are struggling to rid themselves of this man and his parasitical family and to preserve their unique environmental heritage from his further ‘business venture’.”

A Thorn in Taib’s side and Mahathir’s too: BRUNO MANSER and the PENANS

Manser, who was last seen in public on May 25, 2000, was a thorn in Taib’s side since the mid 1980s, encouraging the Penan to set up blockades and oppose state-sponsored logging activities.

Bruno Manser 1999 penan sarawakManser (left) spent six years between 1984 to 1990 living with the Penan, evading arrest by local authorities and later slipped from under their noses to return to Switzerland to spread awareness of the Penan’s plight.

Among his most outrageous protest stunts was when, in 1999, he landed on the roof of Taib’s residence in Kuching using a motorised hang glider.

He also published a book, ‘Voices from the Rainforest’ in 1992. In 2004 after he went missing, Basel-based publisher Christoph Merian Verlag followed up with ‘Dairies from the Rainforest’ in German, detailing the extensive notes, photographs and documents compiled by Manser. On March 10, 2005, the courts in Basel declared Manser missing and presumed dead.

Forget the VK Lingam Tapes?

July 28, 2010

Chief Justice: Lingam Tapes are a matter of the past

by Hafiz Yatim (July 27, 2010) @ http://www.malaysiakini.com

Chief Justice Zaki Azmi today said the VK Linggam video scandal that saw a senior lawyer caught on tape brokering the appointment of senior judges was a thing of the past that need not be dwelled upon by the current judiciary.

Speaking at a press conference after addressing law delegates on the issue of the ‘Malaysian judiciary: Performance, Achievement and Future Planning’, Zaki said it was more important to look towards the future of the judiciary.

vk lingam tape judge fixing fiasco 210907Asked to comment on whether he was satisfied with the standard of the judiciary given the shadow cast over its reputation by the Lingam tape controversy, Zaki snapped back at the reporter with his own question: “What do you think?”

“It is unnecessary for me to comment as it is in the past and we are concentrating on the future,” he added.

Zaki had earlier briefed the delegates of what he expects from judges. The video footage of Lingam, released by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in 2007, was recorded at Lingam’s house during a discussion on a legal matter.

The royal commission of inquiry set up to probe the scandal subsequently recommended that former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and five others, including Lingam, be investigated under various laws for their covert role in the appointment of judges.

Others on the list were former chief justices Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Eusoff Chin, UMNO secretary-general and former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and business tycoon Vincent Tan.

In October last year, however, the government announced it would not prosecuting any parties on the matter because an official probe into the affair had failed to turn up sufficient evidence or proper testimony.

Avoid long-winded judgments

In his speech to the delegates, Zaki said judges will from now on be asked to avoid writing long-winded judgments and instead produce short and precise grounds of judgments to help reduce the backlog of cases.

He also said that it would be sufficient if judges wrote approximately 10 pages of judgment and warned of action against those judges who took a long time to write their judgments.

“I find there are many judges wasting a lot of time writing 50 or more pages of judgments. But the real substance may be five percent or less of the entire case, particularly if the case originated from the Magistrate’s and Sessions Court, up to a High Court trial. At the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, we may write at length,” said the former lawyer.

zaki azmi and malaysia palace of justice judiciaryOtherwise, he added, judges should just stick to the relevant facts of the case and do away with writing elaborate judgments.

The New Zealand Supreme Court, he noted, had produced a judgment that was only one-and-a-half pages. American judges are known to have written even shorter judgments.

All judges have been directed to clear their written judgments before they take leave, said Zaki adding that by writing shorter judgments, judges could focus on reducing the backlog.

He said in his past two years as chief justice, he has reduced the backlog of cases emanating from the subordinate and higher courts.

“This has been done by appointing more High Court judges. From 90 High Court judges, we now have more than 130, with the remainder being mainly judicial commissioners.”

“We have also managed to introduce the fast-tracking system which helps dispose cases faster. We have made it a requirement that if a civil case has been filed, it must be disposed off within nine months. In this way, we have managed to reduce the backlog,” he said.

Losing millions of ringgit

The chief justice also called for a transformation of the courts’ filing system. He revealed that a judge costs the government RM1 million a year for salary, his secretary’s pay, his emoluments and other matters.

zaki azmiQuestioned by one delegate on whether speed had compromised the ability to dispense justice, Zaki pointed out that there were 15-20 year-old cases that could have been disposed off within months, especially civil cases.

“Why is there this delay? It was found that there was one case in Sungai Petani where a Sessions judge in a rape case had been reprimanded for granting more than 52 postponements.

“I am sure the accused person and the bailor, along with the witnesses, are tired,” he said.

“Justice delayed is to the disadvantage of both parties as it would lead to problems in tracing the witnesses and exhibits lost. All sorts of things can happen,” he said.

Zaki said the country was losing millions of ringgit as a result of postponements as fees had to be paid for the witnesses.

“We are now disposing of two cases a week instead of two cases a month. The judges are working harder for justice,” he said.  On another matter, Zaki said businesses were confident in the judiciary and they were satisfied with the quicker disposal of cases.

On my favorite novelist: William Somerset Maugham

July 28, 2010

A version of this review appeared in print on July 25, 2010, on page BR1 of the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/books/review/Leavitt)

Somerset Maugham, author of “Of Human Bondage”

Published: July 15, 2010


A Biography

By Selina Hastings

Illustrated. 626 pp. Random House. $35

William Somerset Maugham

In 1962, William Somerset Maugham’s nephew, Robin, his own literary efforts having not amounted to much, informed his wealthy and famous uncle that an American publisher, Victor Weybright, had offered him an advance of $50,000 to write Maugham’s biography. “Obviously I can’t afford to turn down such a good offer,” the younger Maugham explained. “As you know, although I earn enough from my writing to keep me going each year, I haven’t a penny of capital.” The letter’s affectionate tone notwithstanding, Maugham had no trouble grasping its import and responded by sending Robin a check equal to the one he would have received from Weybright. “I give you my word that I shall not write any other biography about you — ever,” Robin replied. “I’m really awfully shy about all this, but I’m also very ­grateful.”

Shy” is a peculiar adjective to use to describe blackmail, which was, as Selina Hastings makes clear in her biography, “The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham,” Robin’s intention.

Himself homosexual, Robin had been privy to Maugham’s erotic and emotional involvements with other men since he was a teenager, and might well have been the object of more than avuncular interest on Maugham’s part. (“I’m not saying I think there was incest,” ­Glenway Wescott recalled, “but Willie was infatuated with Robin.”) Nor was Robin’s word to be trusted. Ten years later, in a memoir entitled “Escape From the Shadows,” he quoted his uncle as saying, “I tried to persuade myself that I was three-­quarters normal and that only a quarter of me was queer — whereas really it was the other way round.” Fifty thousand dollars, though enough to keep Robin quiet for Maugham’s lifetime, was not enough to keep him quiet after his death.

Forty-five years later, what little remains of the fortifications with which Maugham sought to secure his post­humous reputation has been swept away. Taking advantage of the Maugham estate’s decision to allow scholarly access to the author’s correspondence, as well as the unearthing of a transcript of an interview with Maugham’s daughter, Has­tings has written a biography that does not so much give us a new Maugham as add shadings to the old one. That Maugham was, to use his own terminology, three-quarters queer will most likely provoke about as much surprise as Ricky Martin’s recent announcement that he is “a fortunate homo­sexual man.”

What we get here are the details, many of them sordid: for instance, the story of Louis Legrand, or Loulou, the “ravishing 16-year-old male whore” whom Maugham and his longtime lover, Gerald Haxton, shared and also made available to the guests at Maugham’s villa on Cap Ferrat, “Gerald afterward discreetly settling the bill. Both Harolds, Nicolson and Acton, became appreciative customers (‘Mon cher Lulu,’ wrote Nicolson from Paris, ‘merci pour la soirée délicieuse’); and so, during the course of the summer, did . . . Robin.”

The passage is typical of Hastings’s prose style, which privileges breeziness and readability over compassion. Not that Maugham was a particularly compassionate character. “Tra-la-la, no more alimony, tra-la-la,” he sang when he learned that his despised former wife, Syrie, had finally died. Upon his reunion with Alan Searle, the great love from whom he was separated for most of the Second World War and who had put on weight in the interval, he remarked acidly, “You may have looked like a Bron­zino once, but now you look like a depraved Frans Hals.”

Hastings, who has written biographies of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, explains that this habit of cruelty had its origins in a cruel childhood. Born in Paris to English parents in 1874, Maugham was orphaned early on — the loss of his beloved mother was a particular blow — and sent back to England for his education. ( “Of Human Bondage” is based on this period in his life.) Toward the uncle and aunt who raised him he felt no great fondness, and as soon as he could, he struck out on his own, entering into medical training at St. Thomas’s Hospital in the Lambeth section of London. It was here that he learned the physician’s art of observing the suffering of others, if not with dispassion, then at least with sang-froid; an art he would exploit in his fiction.

Visits to the “grim houses” in which desperately poor women, as often as not, died in childbirth propelled him to write his first novel, “Liza of Lambeth,” of which he later observed, “My lack of imagination . . . obliged me to set down quite straightforwardly what I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.” As Maugham himself was the first to admit, invention was not his strong suit, and if, later in life, he spent so much of his time traveling, it was as much to gather material as to escape his unhappy marriage. “The writer cannot afford to wait for experience to come to him,” he once wrote; “he must go out in search of it.”

Maugham’s earliest successes were in the theater, and by the 1920s, with several plays often running simultaneously in New York and London, he had the money and leisure to devote himself to the form he loved best: the short story. Amazingly, this was an age in which stories could be cash cows. A 1923 contract with the Hearst magazines guaranteed Maugham payment of $2,500 per story, while from his most famous story, “Rain,” he earned more than $1 million in royalties.

In his fiction, Maugham often sought to lay bare the hypocrisies of his characters. Renowned as a “brilliant castigator of modern morals,” he excelled at dramatizing the exposure of lies and secrets, the duplicities of class and organized religion. Nor did he always take care, when using someone he knew as the basis for a character, to change details or even names. In his novel “Cakes and Ale,” for instance, he modeled the sycophantic, second-rate Alroy Kear on his close friend Hugh Walpole, “palpably exposed,” in Virginia Woolf’s words, “as the hypocritical booming thick-skinned popular novelist.” Much to Woolf’s surprise, Walpole responded to this “flaying alive” not with rage but with bewilderment: “What I mind are a few little things — little things that Willie and I had together — only he and I knew — those he has put into print.”

Is turnabout fair play? Perhaps. Indeed, as I read Hastings’s biography (and I read it in great gulps), I could not help wondering if Maugham might deserve the “flaying alive” to which she subjects him. After all, here was a man who, despite his passionate erotic partnerships with two men, could write with detached humor that “the homosexual” has “small power of invention, but a wonderful gift for delightful embroidery”; a man who, in a late memoir, so vilified his deceased ex-wife as to provoke one friend, Rebecca West, to denounce him as “an obscene little toad” and another, Graham Greene, to dismiss the memoir as “a senile and scandalous work”; a man who tried to disown his own fragile daughter on the grounds that he had no evidence that he was actually her father.

I could go on. Hastings makes a strong case against Maugham the man. Where she runs into trouble is in her half­hearted attempt to make a case for Maugham the writer. Is it, in fact, “safe to say,” as she does, that Maugham “will again hold generations in thrall, that his place is ­assured”?

Probably not. “I know just where I stand,” she quotes him as having said on more than one occasion; “in the very front row of the second-rate.” If so much of Maugham’s fiction comes across today as brittle, arch, world-weary and heartless, it may be precisely because he devoted more energy to maintaining his own double standard than he did to interrogating the double standards of others. He tried to have it both ways, and as his stories so amply demonstrate, those who try to have it both ways rarely come to a happy end.

David Leavitt is the Waldo W. Neikirk term professor at the University of Florida for 2010-11.