Syed Nazri’s “Theatrics of PKR’s Ketua Umum”

November 30, 2010

Zaid Ibrahim would be delighted at Syed Nazri’s “Theatrics of PKR’s Ketua Umum

FOR a person who goes around talking so much about democracy and human rights, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a walking, talking contradiction. How else could you describe it when he is now actually stepping into another term as unconstitutional, non-elected ketua umum — the supremo, great leader, the mighty chief — of Parti Keadilan Rakyat?
To many, the declaration of support by delegates at the weekend party congress legitimising his position would remain just that — a show. A rerun of 2007, in fact. He is de facto leader definitely because his powers seem to exceed and override those of party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, his wife — which makes it bad enough that it has to be a family-run party. 

But wasn’t it just two weeks ago that the parliamentary opposition leader was in Australia spinning a yarn about Malaysian democracy? He was telling his audience that Australian leaders had been “ill-advised” to avoid speaking out about human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

“I think the issue of democracy, human rights, rule of law — they’re not something that you can just ignore,” he was heard saying over Radio Australia on Nov 16. Absolutely, Datuk Seri. But it does seem a little strange, doesn’t it, coming from a person who is not really living up to what he preaches.

The latest PKR elections were mired in so much controversy, with reports indicating that, of the 162 formal election complaints from members about fraud and non-compliance of election rules, less than 15 per cent were officially discussed.

It was also alleged that some of the most blatant frauds occurred in Libaran, Sandakan and Tawau (all in Sabah) and Sri Aman (Sarawak) where the process and voter attendance were heavily disputed.  But the cases, some insiders said, were ignored by the Ketua Umum.

Disgruntled PKR members even staged protests on many occasions against unfair practices in the party. Just imagine — Anwar, the godfather of street demos, now having to face this wrath. It was really a case of senjata makan tuan or the weapon turning on its master.

But perhaps his most glaring disregard for democracy is his continued tenure as non-elected ketua umum, even if the “legitimisation” came from the floor on Sunday (1,200 delegates declaring without vote on behalf of the thousands of other members).  What do you expect when it was done in his presence?

A pattern seems to be building up somewhere with this latest development. Let’s look back a little at what happened when PKR had its last elections in 2007.

Members had then wanted Anwar to run for president, giving him numerous nominations in the process. So, it was to be a three-cornered fight between him, Dr Wan Azizah, the incumbent, and former party treasurer Abdul Rahman Othman.

But at the very last minute, the scenario changed when Anwar suddenly announced he was withdrawing as he did not want to run foul of the law, which prohibited someone who had been in prison from holding any post in any society for five years upon release.

Anwar, who came out of prison three years earlier, made an impassioned plea at the party congress in Seremban.

And this was how the New Sunday Times of May 27, 2007 reported it: “He presented a tough choice to the 1,500 delegates — if he won, he was prepared to face a personal legal battle. But if the PKR ended up being dissolved as a result of his victory, both the party and members would suffer the consequences.

“It was then that some delegates stood up, interrupting Anwar’s speech to convey their support for him. Then, a long line of delegates waited for the same opportunity to use the floor’s microphone to give their two sen’s worth.

“The exchange of opinions on the pros and cons of Anwar being the party president went on for almost an hour. And when Anwar returned to the podium on stage after more than a dozen people had expressed their views, the silent hall of the Chung Hua High School heard him propose a formula.”

It was at that moment, it was reported, that Anwar announced to everyone that he could be the leader, but asked delegates to accept Dr Wan Azizah as president. A delegate then stood up to propose that Anwar be made PKR’s de facto leader with a provision that he would stand in the next elections (this year). And the floor shouted its agreement in unison.

To add to the drama, Abdul Rahman then declared he was withdrawing from the contest as a mark of respect for Anwar’s announcement. It was theatrics at its best. The no-contest has left Dr Wan Azizah as president for another term and Anwar stronger than ever in the party.

Are we seeing another round of theatrical outburst this time with the Wanita motion? But the question remains as to why Anwar is reluctant to contest the PKR presidency this time around when he is, by law, eligible.

Why should he hold on to the very ambiguous position of ketua umum? Is he afraid of a possible embarrassment that he might not get 100 per cent support, hence a dent on his ego? Or is there another underlying reason?

Anwar is trying to portray that he has been so wronged he could be the Aung San Suu Kyi of Malaysia. But the way things are going, he could end up more like Kim Jong-il.

Malaysia Airlines’ Multi-Billion Ringgit Losses

November 30, 2010

Malaysia Airlines’ Multi-Billion Ringgit Losses: Social Care Foundation’s Robert Phang urges the Attorney-General to explain

by Leven Woon Zheng Yang@

Attorney-general (AG) Abdul Gani Patail has been called to explain allegations implicating him for the lack of action over Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) multi-billion ringgit losses.

robert phang clarify on anwar allegation 080410 01Social Care Foundation chairperson Robert Phang Miow Sin (left) said records and pictures from a whistleblower website of Abdul Gani together with an individual said to be close to former MAS chairperson Tajuddin Ramli have added a different dimension to the controversy.

Phang, who is also a member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) consultative and advisory panel, said Abdul Gani may see adverse public speculation over his connection to the issue if he ignored the allegations.

Phang was responding to the emergence of photographs on news portal Malaysia Today, showing Abdul Gani together with one Shahidan Shafie during their recent haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Abdul Gani’s relationship with Shahidan was a close one, Malaysia Today alleged further, as reflected in the former’s early exit from a Malaysia Day function last September to accompany Shahidan to the hospital when the latter’s child suffered an accident.

NONEThe website had in September and November also claimed that it was Shahidan, said to be an ex-police officer, who had convinced Abdul Gani not to press charges against Tajuddin.

Tajuddin, who was MAS’ executive chairperson from 1994 to 2001, has been blamed for the national carrier suffering losses amounting to more than RM8 billion.

MAS had also filed several reports against Tajuddin with the MACC, citing Tajuddin’s move to relocate MAS’ cargo operations in Amsterdam and Frankfurt to a single hub in Hahn, Germany, as the single biggest loss suffered under him.

The new hub operation reportedly incurred monthly losses of between RM10 million to RM16 million before it was terminated and the government took over control of MAS in 2001.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Phang said MACC is entitled to investigate the AG if there was a directive to do so by the Prime Minister’s Department.  Also the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Nazri Aziz, can appoint a panel to oversee the MACC’s investigations into the matter.

He hesitated, however, to say whether MACC would initiate its own probe. “They (Home Ministry) must form the panel first, then MACC can investigate,” said Phang.

Make use of Bank Negara reserves

November 30, 2010

Make use of  high reserves, says Malaysia’s self appointed Economic Advisor

Malaysia’s high international reserves can be mobilised, says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Our reserves today are too high. We have over US$100 billion as reserves, which can sustain eight months of retained imports,” he said.

The country only needs to have reserves up to three or four months of retained imports, he said in his address at the ‘Revisiting Vision 2020′ organised by the Institute of Marketing Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur today.

NONE“Out of the US$100 billion, you can actually mobilise US$50 billion, which will help the government. It is saying it does not have the money to do this and that, no money to subsidise.

“So, why not use this money,” he said. During the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, Malaysia’s foreign reserves was only US$17 billion and during recovery it was US$30 billion, he said.

Dr Mahathir however said he was not sure if the higher reserves were due to the depreciation of the US dollar or it was the actual reserves the country has.

The US dollar has depreciated about 20 per cent versus the ringgit. Bank Negara Malaysia announced that as at November 15, its international reserves amounted to RM326.5 billion (equivalent to US$105.8 billion).

The reserves position is sufficient to finance 8.8 months of retained imports and is 4.5 times the short-term external debt, it said.

Dr Mahathir also said Malaysia could easily emerge as a rich nation if the ringgit strengthens to the pre-crisis level of RM2.50 to a US dollar. Currently, the ringgit is hovering at RM3.1 versus a greenback.

More focus on domestic direct investments

“If the ringgit strengthen to the (pre-crisis) level of RM2.50, of course the country’s gross domestic product growth would have become higher,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said due to external factors and the crisis, Malaysia’s per capita income did not grow to US$16,000 as envisaged under Vision 2020. He said the country has a good 10 years to work to realise Vision 2020 goals provided the government very carefully manages the country’s economy and its finances as well as supervise these things vigilantly.

There should also be more focus and drive towards domestic direct investments (DDIs) as compared with foreign direct investments (FDIs), said Dr Mahathir who helmed the nation for 22 years as prime minister.

“There is not much money coming in and at the same time you should remember that there are two million foreign workers who remit money home,” he said.

“Hence, if the country continues to woo more foreign investments, the revenue will not be high enough to achieve Vision 2020.

“It will take much longer to achieve Vision 2020 and not in 2020. Therefore, the country needs more DDIs, whereby the profits remain here and achieve the seven per cent GDP growth that is needed to achieve Vision 2020. I am very sure that our industries will grow even faster and contribute to the nation’s GDP and per capita income provided the government gives good incentives as well as free them from obstacles for their growth,” he said.

Hence, the strategies to attain Vision 2020 has to be changed as “we can’t follow the path we took before, which is very dependent on foreign direct investments to domestic direct investments.”

“The government is already thinking about it and I hope a decision will be made (soon),” he added.

Take the bull by the horns and fix PKR

November 29, 2010

Anwar, take the bull by the horns and fix PKR

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT The hour has come for Anwar Ibrahim to match deed to word.  This now rapidly receding year has been one of dismal frailty in his party, what with defections, resignations and disruptions that have sown doubt about the party’s capability to lead the agenda of political change for the country.

A party seemingly smoothing along nice and easy has been badly thrown off-stride, afflicted by confidence-eroding jerks and twitches.

pkr congress 281110 anwar syed husinOut of the discontinuity between the image it aspires to create – its capacity for a lead role in governing the country – and the reality that is less grand – disarray in its ranks and defective mechanisms in its administration – comes the opportunity for grand retrieval.

Where there is crisis there must also be opportunity. A grand recovery is what is required of Anwar to slide back to the top of the wave for change he campaigned for intensively three years ago and that was partly consummated in the tsunami of March 2008.

Lapses and slips are par for the course in a political career. But when these are allowed prolonged tenancy, they erode gains made earlier and destroy reputations long in the making.

After a torrid exercise in leader-selection that tried to enshrine the most radical principle yet in Malaysian democratic politics – direct voting by party members of its principal office-bearers – the PKR supremo must make the remaining days to the year a period of unequivocal action rather than prevarication.

Anwar’s month of decisive action

These actions could begin with the appointment of a new secretary-general, one of professional administrative bent, uninterested in a personal career in politics.

PKR needs such a person in this critical role, to insulate the nerve centre of the party from the vagaries of the factional battles that democratic parties are prone to.

NONEAnwar’s month of decisive action could continue with the selection of a new election director because the current one (Fuziah Salleh, right) has now a party veep position to take care of in addition to the defense of her MP-ship of Kuantan, not an easy seat to secure in the next general election.

The top range to this activist response to crisis would be the appointment of Dr Jeffrey Kitingan to the post of chief selector of candidates for all the seats PKR intends to contest in Sabah, and not just the seats with a Kadazan-Dusun-Murut majority.

This move would effectively forestall what is being anticipated through the resignation the other day from PKR of Philip Among, Jeffrey’s chief aide. The resignation is a harbinger of disintegration to the party’s Sabah chapter.  Other moves would include the naming of a respected luminary in socio-political society to the chairmanship of PKR’s disciplinary committee.

Last but not least, Anwar ought to outline what should be done for the education of Dr Molly Cheah , PKR’s hapless party election monitor who has had a role akin to the retired Tony Blair’s in the Middle East peace process – a walk-on role of embarrassing nullity.

An Alternative Paradigm for Change and Reform(?)

November 28, 2010

“In the aftermath of the previous general election, opposition politicians talked about the political tsunami that engulfed the nation in tones of euphoric surprise initially. Over time, the tone and tenor of the rhetoric mutated and it is beginning to seem as if some of the politicians feel they are where they entitled to be. Some have gone so far as to posture as if they are our only choice…

The PR (Pakatan Rakyat) cannot run away from the fact that the Keadilan controversy has dented public confidence. Simply repeating that all is well will not go far in addressing the fundamental difficulties that have been brought into focus by it. Concrete steps must be taken.”–Malik Imtiaz

An Alternative Paradigm for Change and Reform (?)

by Malik Imtiaz Sarvar

I do not think I am alone in feeling that this country is in need of a serious overhaul. Sweeping reform, of a nature far deeper than the superficial changes conceived by consultants to seduce voters, is critical to our continued survival. If voter sentimentnat the last general election is any indication, I think I am similarly not alone in believing that a change of government is in order.

I am guided to this conclusion not by dint of any admiration for those currently in Pakatan Rakyat(PR). Although admitted , there are individuals among them for whom I have a great deal of respect, this in itself is not a reason for change. The matter is addressed rather by reference to the seming inability of Barisan Nasional (BN) at the present time to form the kind of government this country needs.

It is not very difficult to prove this proposition: the BN is held by its component parties and their members, in particular UMNO. In as much as some within the BN may wish to push the envelope on reform, they are subject to those who shape influence with these parties.

Sadly, these influences seem to be driven by the belief that the ends justify the means. It is for this reason that painfully sectarian communal politics and the attendant inflammatory race and religious posturing are still very much a part of our lives despite this obviously being counter to the interests of us all. Repeated pleas to reconsider the value of such politics is met with hostility or simply ignored.

Their impact on the landscape is undeniable. Constant pandering to the politics of race and religion has resulted in grave consequences. Our country has been left terribly weakened, its institutions in seeming disarray, with no clear direction as to how to restore things to the way they once were.

At the heart of this is a highly worrisome race relations problem that is not only disruptive of desperately needed unity but also undermines our fundamentals, not least for standing in the way of constructive dialogue. Rather than engage in the issues, the government chooses to police thought and expression, the imminent sedition laws for cyberspace aptly illustrating the seige mentality of the current leadership.

To say that the citizenry is fearful for its future would not be overstating the situation, I think. For many of us, hope of the leadership recognising that what is best for our country is not necessarily defined by its political interests has diminished, if not wholly faded away. Trends that led us to doubt the quality and integrity of the government have not been arrested; concerns about the independence of key institutions–the Attorney-General’s Chambers, police, anti-corruption commission, Judiciary, and Election Commission, to name but a few–still abound as do doubts about the commitment of these bodies to the spirit of the Constitution.

The rakyat (people) has for some time felt that it cannot take their government at face value or believe in it being committed to do right by them. The constant refrains by its agents that all is well have worn thin. It is for this reason that the vote turned against the BN in 2008 the way it did. Wisdom would dictate that this was not so much due to voters favoring the PR rather than rejecting the BN.

Forgive me if I am not saying anything new in this. There is a purpose in reiterating this for the benefit of the PR. In the aftermath of the previous general election, opposition politicians talked about the political tsunami that engulfed the nation in tones of euphoric surprise initially. Over time, the tone and tenor of the rhetoric mutated and it is beginning to seem as if some of the politicians feel they are where they entitled to be. Some have gone so far as to posture as if they are our only choice.

This sense of entitlement is worrying as it is possibly indicative of politics having trumped the underlying cause of change and reform. If this is the case, the line between these politicians and those whom they condemn is less defined than they would have us believe. It would be wise for these politicians to recall that they  were swept to success by a voter sentiment that is as likely to change its direction if the voters are left dissatisfied with what they perceive.

Leave aside the fact that the PR has precious little to make voters aware of what it expects to when, and if, it gets to Putrajaya. Or that it has not made clear what and how it will do as the government will be more viable for the nation than what the BN is doing. These are important issues but are unfortunately beyond the scope of this commentary.

Consider instead what it is Malaysians are being shown about PR through Keadilan. The Keadilan party election controversy raises serious questions about the ability of the party, and its allies whose fate is tied to it, to champion democracy it says it is fighting for.

Electoral irregularities are bound to happen and in any race, there will always be concerns about how

The PKR Troika for Change and Reform

level the playing field is. What is troubling is the scale of the complaints and the manner in which they have, or rather have not, been addressed. We have heard much about naysayers, traitors and the like, but we have heard little about the complaints levelled against the process and how they have been dealt with.

Malaysians need to understand clearly what it is that happened and why it happened. In particular, they need to be made to understand why there are factions within the party that have allowed their personal interests to get in the way of the cause they have represented themselves as championing.

Equally of concern is how, despite the matter having a direct bearing in the reputation of the reputation of the coalition as a whole, the other members of the PR feel unqualified to raise their concerns about it publicly. This is reminiscent of the relationship that the other component parties have with UMNO and, if so, raises an issue as to the power dynamics within the coalition.

The PR cannot run away from the fact that the Keadilan controversy has dented public confidence. Simply repeating that all is well will not go far in addressing the fundamental difficulties that have been brought into focus by it. Concrete steps must be taken.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. It still hold the view that we need a new way of governing our country.. The question is, are we comfortable with placing our hopes entirely on PR? Some would have us believe that it is one or the other, a model that is problematic now that PR has shown itself to have feet of clay. I do not think our options are that limited. For one, PR can be made to see that it does not play a messianic role in the unfolding saga. For another, who is to say that we should not be recasting the paradigm and looking at alternatives?

*Malek Imtiaz Sarwar is a lawyer and the president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Source: The Edge Malaysia (November 29, 2010)

India: “Our Moral Universe seems to be shrinking”, says Sonia Gandhi

November 28, 2010

India: “Our Moral Universe seems to be shrinking”, says Sonia Gandhi

by Anand Giridharadas@

HAD the judgment come from a philosopher or sociologist or foreign journalist, it might have been unremarkable. But it came instead from the political matriarch of India’s governing party.“Our economy may increasingly be dynamic,” Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, said last week in New Delhi, “but our moral universe seems to be shrinking.”

Her words quickly swirled into the tempest of India’s ongoing corruption scandal. A recent government audit found that roughly US$40 billion (RM126 billion) had been frittered away by selling telecommunications licences to well-connected companies at far below market values. That is enough money, had it properly been collected, to feed the hungriest tenth of Indians for one full year.

But Gandhi seemed to be speaking of more than just the scandal. Her diagnosis was severe and far-reaching, sharpened perhaps by her special insider-outsider lens as an Italian-born, Indian-widowed, Uttar Pradesh-elected national leader.

“Prosperity has increased, but so has social conflict,” she said. “Intolerance of various kinds is growing. Graft and greed are on the rise. The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a whole generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated.” She is hardly the only Indian to feel this way. One hears this anguish more and more in the salons of Delhi and Mumbai, and in the Indian media.

In China, too, on a visit last summer, I heard over and over from young people fortunate enough to be thriving that their nation was unmoored, lost, morally confused, suffering a crisis of meaning often hard to perceive in the shadows of frothing growth.

“It is impossible to feel calm and quiet in a society that only chases profits,” Ji Qi told me in the lobby of a Marriott Hotel in Shanghai.

He is a serial entrepreneur, the founder of two hotel companies and the online travel portal He is part of what has made China grow so quickly, but he said he had come to regret some of the by-products of that speed.

In this view, there is too much mimicry of Western models, regardless of their fit. There is too much attention to money and not enough on culture and values. Journalists, Ji said, did not ask him what he thought or how China might be changed; they concentrated on his Forbes rich-list ranking.

“A good civilisation should be balanced between material and spiritual,” he said. He thinks that China will undergo, like South Korea before it, a rapid religious revival in the coming decades as more and more people come to feel what he feels.

Lately, he finds himself turning to ancient Taoist texts, to Confucius, to Buddhism, all to anchor himself. He said what so many others did, in different ways: “We need an evolution of thoughts and ideas.”

The world has been aflutter with talk of India and China for several years now. So much of that talk — like so much of the chatter within those countries — is about doing: what their software industries will do to the West, what their coal industries will do to the ecosystem, what their navies will do on the high seas, what their manufacturing sectors will do to the global trade in shoes, medicine, cars.

But if the sentiments of young thrivers in these countries is any guide, the next chapter in the Indian and Chinese stories will not be about doing. It will be, rather, about being. The frenetic doing will go on. India and China each have hundreds of millions of citizens waiting to escape hard, impoverished lives.

Many still lining up to thrive would be surprised to hear that change is coming too quickly. But, among those who have arrived, we may see a rising tendency toward self-scrutiny. It could take disparate forms: Indians and Chinese turning down lucrative jobs to join think-tanks, become journalists, activists or otherwise play their part in the public sphere; young people digging into these two ancient cultures to find ideas of what to wear, read and eat, after the feverish years of Westernisation; sobering media that interrogate growth instead of just giving evidence of it; and philosophers guiding these nations towards new constellations of values.

It is easy to forget, especially when in the West, but also when towering above the land in the sparkling new apartment complexes of Beijing and Mumbai, just how much India and China are going through right now — not economically, not militarily, but deep in their souls.

A relentless futurism has gripped two societies that long prided themselves on reverence for the past. A migration from the countryside to the city is changing their essential characters, with restless, rootless urbanites replacing villagers as the cultural centre of gravity.

Social upheavals that took decades, even centuries, in the West — from feminism to gay rights to the rise of respect for the young — are happening in a historical flash. Parents are finding themselves unforeseeably abandoned in their final earthbound years. Founding heroes whose faces adorn currency — in China, Mao; in India, Gandhi — no longer inspire the same fervour, but new heroes are nowhere to be found.

Indians and Chinese now have time to reflect about growth — as evidenced perhaps in the thousands who turned out last weekend to mourn those who perished in an apartment tower inferno in Shanghai.

The questions they are asking are not only about superpowerdom and their place in the world. They are also about anchoring and purpose, about the quiet life within.

For what great idea will each be known? What counterweights will each poise against the pull of money? Who will be their new heroes?

What kind of world will they summon? What will be, when the hot growth cools and the deeper reckoning comes, the meaning of their rise? — NYT/

Lies, damn lies and stupidity

November 27, 2010

Lies, damn lies and stupidity

By Jonson Chong

COMMENT: After my polite final appeal to the president of PKR was ignored… No, actually, she told us that the central election committee would carry out thorough investigations and that all candidates should stop using the media to criticise the party. Although that did not sit well with me, I respected her wishes so much so that even when I withdrew from the contest for a vice- presidential position, I did it quietly.

Indeed, I know some shrewder politicians ridicule me for not taking the opportunity to make a public statement. Well, the rationale for me is simple. I quit because I found the entire party election to be such a disappointment and it completely lacked credibility. And it gave me neither profit nor pleasure in making the party look worse than it already was. (For your information, I tried contacting the president directly before I wrote my open letter to her.)

Now, I share my true feelings not because I want to embarrass the party but because I sense the presence of foolish arrogance in the voice of the party’s secretary-general. And I simply cannot remain silent in the face of bold-faced lies because I know it will eventually bring the party to its knees. Yes, I am talking about his statements vis-a-vis the sacking of P Jenapala.

Before I proceed, let me confess one thing. I am no fan of Jenapala. At one point in time, we were both deputy secretaries-general of the party and I came to realise that I did not like the way he expressed himself, which is probably due to the way he thought. Anyway, I digress.

Back to the current secretary-general of PKR. He said that he welcomes the police to investigate the forgery of a letter sacking Jenapala, purportedly signed by the previous secretary-general. (For those who are unaware, I served as the deputy to the previous secretary-general.)

Apart from opening the doors of the party headquarters and computer servers to the friendly PDRM, the current secretary-general also says that, “All we did was open our files and found the letter that Salehuddin signed… How am I supposed to know if his signature was forged?” Does he expect members, supporters and the public to just accept this lame explanation and conclude all is well in the party?

Please allow me to share how the previous secretary-general would have handled things if this matter cropped up, that is, whether Jenapala was actually sacked from the party. One, he would have asked the membership officer to check Jenapala’s membership status. Two, he would have asked me to scrutinise the central leadership council meetings’ minutes for the relevant decision. And, three, he would have asked whether we issued a letter to inform Jenapala, if indeed such a decision was made.

Honest mistake

For me, just the stupidity of how this Jenapala issue was handled is enough to tell me that the judgment of the people who are purportedly in charge of the party is seriously impaired.

But what really sickens me to the core of my being is that I know for a fact that someone in the party headquarters knows that the letter is a forgery. It was created to cover up an initial honest mistake made by somebody when they said that Jenapala was sacked in February 2009.

For your information, I was the deputy secretary-general charged with the responsibility to assist the disciplinary board in handling cases referred to them by the MPP. When the Jenapala matter first came up during the party election, someone from the headquarters called me to ask whether there was a letter sent to Jenapala to sack him. I said there isn’t such a letter and there never was such a decision to sack him. There was only a decision to sack him in principle, if indeed it was found that he was involved in the formation of a new political party.

Then, before I knew it, I saw a letter with the previous secretary-general’s signature, which was purportedly sent to Jenapala to sack him way back in February 2009. I was speechless.

I was speechless because there is no doubt in my mind that the letter is a forgery, and I am dumbfounded that they could resort to such a thing to cover up an honest mistake, for which they could have just humbly informed the media and move on.

Now, in light of the police report lodged by the previous secretary-general, this matter cannot be swept under the carpet anymore; especially not the way the current secretary-general attempted to do it. I’m amazed that he doesn’t see the gravity of the situation.

I know, in politics perception is everything. But I also know, in a court of law evidence is everything. And when the judiciary is not on your side, it doesn’t even matter if they don’t have the evidence. All they need is a good reason to put you away.

If the president still does not take some serious action to remedy this situation, then I’m afraid the party’s days may be numbered, with or without a new line-up. And let me unequivocally state that I am not addressing the de facto leader on this matter because I no longer recognise the validity of that position.



Congrats to my friends, Zainon and Steven

November 27, 2010 (November 26, 2010)

Congrats to Zainon and Steven for being named Media Personalities by the 4As

The Sun political editor Zainon Ahmad and Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan were named media personalities of 2010 by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) at a gala dinner this evening. The award is part of the annual Kancil Awards, the country’s largest and most prestigious advertising honours. 

zainon ahmad at kancil awards 2010Zainon (left) and Gan received the award from 4As president Vincent Lee at the Sime Darby Convention Centre, where about 90 medals were given to acknowledge the best creative work of Malaysia’s top advertising agencies in various categories – film, radio, print and digital.

Lee said that the award was in recognition of the outstanding achievement of both Zainon and Gan as journalists who “seek the truth without fear or favour”.

steven gan at kancil awards 2010In receiving the award, Gan (right) described the honour as “special and rare” as it came from the advertising industry.

“An award such as this is never the result of the work of just one individual. For this, I pay tribute to the men and women in Malaysiakini – both past and present – who helped put the news portal on the map.”

Malaysiakini celebrates 11th anniversary

According to Gan, the award came at an opportune time as Malaysiakini celebrated its 11th anniversary six days ago. This is the second year that the media personality award was given.

Last year, The Sun editor and columnist R Nadeswaran, better known as Citizen Nades, won the inaugural media personality award.

It is also the second time this year that Malaysiakini walked away with an award. In March, Malaysiakini was named one of the country’s favourite brands at the inaugural Putra Brand Awards.

was picked as Malaysia’s top six media brands, alongside TV stations Astro, TV3, 8TV, newspaper Star and global search engine Google.

Results of Kancil Awards 2010

Wan Azizah slams “Ketuanan Melayu”

November 27, 2010

Wan Azizah slam “Ketuanan Melayu” at PKR Party Congress

by Aidila Razak@

“Ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy) should be abandoned, said PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in her opening speech at the party congress in Shah Alam today.

“The concept of Malay supremacy must be left behind so that our children will grow up with the vision of a dignified race.pkr congress 271110 wan azizah“Malay supremacy is a slogan used by a small group of Malay elites who are cheating the Malays as a whole for their own interests,” she told the 1,600 party delegates.

Quoting a traditional Malay ‘pantun’, she pointed that dignity has long been valued in Malay tradition, but this has been left to the wayside by UMNO.

“After 53 years in power, the Malays and bumiputera are still neglected… The 30 percent Malay-bumiputera equity has yet to be met. Of the RM54 billion equity and shares for bumiputera, only RM2 billion still belong to them,” she lamented.

Worse still, she said, in Batu Sapi a bumiputera labourer is only paid RM9.50 a day. According to her, every four families with household incomes under RM2,000, three are Malay.

“All this proves that UMNO leaders do not defend Malays (but) are only interested to protect the interest of a few,” he said.pkr congress 271110 crowdThe PKR president added that the emphasis on the survival of Malays and Islam have been used as a strategy by UMNO against Pakatan Rakyat to “confuse, worry and cause anxiety” among the multiracial Malaysian society.

Instead, she said, Pakatan and PKR urge Muslims to adhere to the true teachings of Islam, which teaches “fairness, moderation and respect for other races and religion.”

Malay issues interestingly make up a significant portion of the speech of the president of the party, which lauds itself as being a true multiracial party.

Malays make up 50 percent of the party membership, followed by Indians at 23 percent, Chinese at 12 percent, while other bumiputera make up the remainder 15 percent.

Party polls a lesson in democracy

Meanwhile, Wan Azizah also reiterated her call for all grouses against the party be resolved through internal channels. “Don’t put our necks on the chopping board of the enemy media by exposing our weaknesses,” she said.

Defending the party polls, she said that that it was a lesson in democracy for the membership. Quoting Robert H Schuller, she said, “Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.” Among the top party leaders listening to Wan Azizah was husband Anwar Ibrahim, who is PKR de facto leader.

Songs for Your Weekend

November 26, 2010

Hi Friends,

Dr. Kamsiah and I were absent from the music scene for the last 2 weeks. We were preoccupied with political developments, especially the Azmin-Zaid saga and its effects on Parti KeADILan Rakyat and Pakatan Rakyat. At this point in time, the idea of a two party system seems to be under threat and there is a talk about a  Third Force (Independents and Civil Society personalities). Be as it may,we should  not prolong and belabour the issue.

It is time for  Dr. Kamsiah and I enjoy with you  a few old tunes by some of the most outstanding female vocalists of all time. We are bringing back for your listening pleasure Dame Shirley Bassey, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Connie Francis, Joni James and the immortal First Lady of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald who sings Mack the Knife from her Grammy Award winning album, Ella in Berlin. Unfortunately this video is barred, so we hope the alternative can be played.

Din saw Ella perform live in West Berlin in 1963 when he was in Germany on a student exchange programme, and this tune was particularly popular at that time.  After her performance, Berliners gave Ella a standing ovation.

We are saddened at the passing of the last of Malaysia’s Founding Fathers, Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, the dynamic chief minister and founder of Modern Penang. As our tribute to this great Malaysian and Penangite, we wish to play Ode to Joy (Beethoven Symphony No.9) conducted by Leonard Bernstein as the opening  number.  Our condolences to his brother and Din’s good friend, Dato Lim Chong Keat and the family members of the late Tun. –Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Leonard Bernstein–Ode to Joy (Beethoven Symphony Nr.9)

Shirley Bassey–Never, Never, Never

Doris Day- Autumn Leaves

Rosemary Clooney–Sisters

Connie Francis–You always hurt the one you love

Joni James –Little Things Mean A Lot

Ella Fitzgerald –Mack The Knife

Cambodia: In the Land of Angkor

November 26, 2010

Cambodia: An increasingly popular tourist destination

by John Teo@

FOR a small nation and a bit out of the way for main air traffic along the so-called kangaroo route from Australia to Europe or East Asia to Southeast Asia, Cambodia is doing rather nicely with its tourism industry.The temples of Angkor are easily the main tourist-puller, drawing more than a million of them each year and making the tidy little town of Siem Reap home to more than 10,000 hotel rooms of all star-categories. 

Temple tour guides are a rather specialised group and come equipped with many language skills catering to the multiplicity of nationalities, making their trek to this historical wonder of the ancient world: English, French, German and, in growing numbers, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thais and Taiwanese.

The East Asians will mostly be flying in direct into Siem Reap through regularly scheduled flights while the Europeans will most likely be flying in from the major regional hubs of Bangkok, Singapore and, increasingly, Kuala Lumpur, where there are now more than 20 flights each week into both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

The secretary of state in the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, Sam Promonea, was thus understandably bullish about tourism prospects in his country when he sat down last month with this writer in Phnom Penh. Aided by a battery of senior officials, he showed how Cambodia is on course to attain more than two million tourist arrivals for this year.

More gratifyingly, Phnom Penh has finally come up to be almost on a par with Siem Reap in terms of tourist drawing power, with both likely to chalk up a million tourists each this year. This is largely attributed to the fact that the major casino resort in Phnom Penh has been phenomenally successful in drawing visitors from all over.But Cambodia’s tourism ambitions do not stop with just Angkor and the casino.

The sea coast around Sihanoukville is slated to become Cambodia’s Riviera with eco-resorts, beach bungalows and spas catering to a luxury clientele. A backpacker paradise as it is, it will become Cambodia’s answer to Thailand’s Phuket and Koh Samui in the relatively more sheltered Gulf of Thailand once the Sihanoukville Airport opens for regional flights next year.

Another unique tourism selling point for Cambodia will be its giant Tonle Sap lake, a stone’s throw by road from Siem Reap. The lake’s dimensions are gargantuan; it appears more like the open sea, with sheer nothingness but the horizon as one peers out into the distance. Its rich biodiversity is not just restricted to teeming fisheries but what is reputed to be one of the richest collections of bird life anywhere on its shoreline, feeding from life in the lake.

Cambodia can draw out the best in many, taken in by its many charms. One only needs to make a cursory inspection of the many multinational groups of conservationists doing their bit to help preserve Angkor’s ruins. A casual count will net quite an interesting mix: from the obvious ones of India and Japan to the former European colonial power, France and even relative minnows such as the Czech Republic. Individuals contribute in no small way as well to the great promise of Cambodian tourism. One of them is Chris Ho, the Malaysian general manager of the Royal Angkor Resort, an independently-managed four-star property in Siem Reap.

Ho, a long-time resident of Cambodia and pioneering “mentor” of a network of some 50 professionals based in Siem Reap, bewails the fact that Cambodian tourism, while raking in revenues for the country’s national treasury, has not done much to alleviate the poverty evident in the hinterland that surrounds Siem Reap.

Together with several senior government officials, he has helped form the “Tonle Sap Learning Lab for Sustainable Tourism”, an innovative multi-disciplinary body comprising select members from government, the private sector and academia dedicated to drawing up a 10-year master plan to ensure ordinary Cambodians benefit from the tourism industry, beyond the obvious areas of direct employment in the various services catering to tourists.

As far as Siem Reap is concerned, the most pressing need will be to look beyond the obvious attraction of

Le Royal, Phnom Penh

Angkor Wat and seek to broaden the area’s appeal to tourists through its natural assets, its native cultures and its traditional agricultural and other economic activities.

Cambodian tourism looks to be on the cusp of a major boom with a resurgent East Asia expected to give it a powerful boost. Its government is hungry for foreign investors to help the country realise that promise. It is, at the same time, highly receptive to ideas and any assistance it can get to ensure the industry develops on a fully sustainable basis.

Malaysian tourism industry players will be looking at potential huge dividends if they seek to venture into Cambodia more aggressively while working seamlessly with our airlines that can turn Kuala Lumpur into an even bigger jumping-off point for Cambodia-bound long-haul tourists.

Tun Lim Chong Eu:The Last of Malaysia’s “Founding Fathers”

November 26, 2010

Tun Lim Chong Eu: The Last of Malaysia’s “Founding Fathers

By Neil Khor@

By now, there is nothing really substantial to add to the many pieces recalling the contributions Lim Chong Eu made when he was Penang Chief Minister. Lim, as readers know, was not only the founder of Parti Gerakan but also the Radical Party, the United Democratic Party and the ruling political coalition, the United Front (better known as Barisan Nasional). He is the last of Malaysia’s “founding fathers”, men who were involved in the writing of the federal constitution and who later contributed substantially to the making of modern Malaysia.

Passion for Knowledge

It was a great privilege to meet and have long conversations with Lim. He was like a philosopher, someone truly passionate about the pursuit of knowledge. He did not suffer fools, and conversations with him, if he liked you, can last several hours. Educated at Edinburgh University, some of the better aspects of the Scottish tradition of aggressive enquiry may have given the impression that Lim was an intellectual bully but nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the time, Lim wanted to know why and how one arrived at a particular conclusion about the subject matter. He would then set you straight and did it without much concern for your ego.

A Model Political Retiree

Unlike most other retired leaders, Lim kept true to his word and retired absolutely from politics. He never said a bad word about his successors. Instead, he constantly alluded to the difficulties and great challenges in managing Penang. It was not difficult for him to leave the political stage because he was more than a politician. This is a rare commodity today where some politicians know of nothing else having little life experience other than in the political arena. Lim was medical doctor, scholar, race-horse owner, and occasionally, enjoyed karaoke.

Lim was very clear at the public lectures he gave that it was not an individual or a “visionary” that gave birth to the industrialisation of Penang. It was a team of people and the circumstances Penang was in that left him with little choice except to travel the world to get foreign direct investments that eventually gave rise to one of the world’s largest electrical and electronic manufacturing hubs outside the United States.

There is no denying that Lim pursued those policies with steely determination but not because he thought he was infallible but because once a strategy to re-model Penang had been agreed upon, the only way the patient could survive would be to allow the treatment to take its course. But he was not a man who banned criticism of his policies. He welcomed criticisms from all parties and this led to a vibrant civil society that characterise Penang society today. A learned man, Lim rose to all types of intellectual challenges when the facts changed, he changed his mind.

There is little doubt that Lim’s dogged pursuit of building a bridge from the island to the mainland has contributed to stronger ties between Penang and Malaysia; it has also contributed to the industrialisation of Seberang Prai and Kulim. Yet, industrialisation gave rise to its own set of challenges and Lim’s last years in office were spent meeting them.

Powerless against BN policies

Those who voted him out in 1990 did not think he was doing a good enough job and he accepted the verdict without much drama. Today, some blame Lim’s policies for our polluted rivers and congested roads. Few recall that in the 1980s, before Lim retired and before Proton, Penang had a relatively good public transport system.

One could ride a bicycle from St Xavier’s Institution back to Tanjung Bungah quite safely. Penang’s roads are congested because there are simply too many cars (with two motorised vehicles to one human being in Penang) and no amount of infrastructure projects can help; there is simply not enough island to go around.

Similarly, there was also little control Lim or Gerakan could exert over the educational policies of the BN. Education was seen as a tool to close the gap between the different ethnic groups but its democratisation led to a downward spiral in terms of standards and quality.

Bayan Lepas, Penang (From the Air)

Perhaps recognising how little the human being can control destiny, Lim kept whatever critical thoughts he may have regarding Penang and Malaysia out of the public arena. But many families look back and recall the dark days of the 1960s, they think fondly about him because he gave Penang leadership and direction. Many middle-class families can say that they benefited from industrialisation and those who did not, look back less nostalgically.

A Promoter of Non-Sectarian Politics

Ultimately, Lim’s real contribution to Malaysia is his determination to promote a non-sectarian approach to politics. He started out on a non-racial platform, joined the MCA to reform it along nationalist lines and left when he could not gain any ground.

He then formed another non-racial party before Gerakan. Whilst many think he made a mistake when he decided to work with Tun Razak in the formation of the Barisan Nasional, his vision was a BN that would eventually become a non-racial platform, an opportunity to build the nation along non-racial lines. Perhaps, one real honour the BN can accord Lim is to adopt his slogan and incorporate it into the new BN logo: “Satu Hati, 1Malaysia”.

Let us all remember Lim not only as a political giant or a towering Malaysian. He was first and foremost, a fallible human being but a man with principles and worked tirelessly for his beloved Penang. In his long retirement, he had the opportunity to leave the political stage and resume normal life. Apart from the occasional public lecture, Lim lived a private life. We would all like to believe that he was a happy man and we are sure that he wished the best for Malaysia.

The writer conveys his sincere condolences to the family of Lim Chong Eu.

The New Great Game: The Indian Ocean

November 26, 2010

NY Times Sunday Book Review 

The New Great Game: The Indian Ocean

By Aaron L.Friedberg*

Maps often reveal more about those who draw them than they do about the reality they purport to represent. The Mercator projections that typically hang on the walls of classrooms and Pentagon offices place the United States in the middle, separated from Europe to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and from Asia to the west by the vast expanse of the Pacific. Our preference for this perspective no doubt reflects a certain national egocentrism, but for the better part of the last two centuries it has also made a good deal of strategic sense.

Through much of the 19th century these oceanic moats made possible what the historian C. Vann Woodward called an era of “free security.” As it grew stronger and stepped onto the world stage, the United States projected its power primarily toward Europe and East Asia. Over the course of the 20th century, Americans waged wars, hot and cold, to prevent these vital regions from falling under the dominion of hostile forces.

Whatever purpose they may once have served, yesterday’s maps have now outlived their usefulness. Since the end of the cold war, and with increased speed and intensity since 9/11, our focus has shifted toward the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as toward the waters of the western Pacific. In “Monsoon,” Robert D. Kaplan argues that we need fresh ways of seeing the world, and especially these parts of it that, despite being split in two by the old projections, are actually integral elements in a single coherent whole.

Kaplan’s goal is to provide his countrymen with just such a map, one centered on what he calls “the Greater Indian Ocean.” This is a region that stretches “eastward from the Horn of Africa past the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau and the Indian subcontinent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond.” Thanks to monsoon winds that shift direction at regular six-month intervals the waters connecting these far-flung shores have long been readily navigable, even by relatively primitive sailing vessels. Linked first by Muslim merchants, the Greater Indian Ocean was later dominated by Portugal, then by the British and most recently by the United States.

Although it became something of a strategic backwater during the cold war, this maritime domain is

Author Robert D. Kaplan

emerging as the global system’s center of gravity. Through it pass huge tankers carrying a large fraction of the world’s energy. At its western end, from Somalia to the monarchies of the Persian Gulf to Iran and Pakistan along the shores of the Arabian Sea, lie the main sources of Islamist extremism. Most important of all, it is in the Indian Ocean that the interests and influence of India, China and the United States are beginning to overlap and intersect. It is here, Kaplan says, that the 21st century’s “global power dynamics will be revealed.”

“Monsoon” is Kaplan’s 13th book, and like much of his earlier work, it contains a special blend of first-person travel writing, brief historical sketches and wide-ranging strategic analysis. Proceeding clockwise from Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, Kaplan comes ashore at various points along the coasts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Indonesia before completing his journey in Zanzibar off the shores of East Africa.

At each point along the way he finds varying mixtures of economic dynamism, cultural diversity, ethnic tension, ecological strain and political turmoil. He is most optimistic about those places (like India and Indonesia) that combine democratic institutions with decentralized administrative structures and cultures of tolerance. Those (like Pakistan and Myanmar) where authoritarian regimes seek to impose order on diverse populations will remain dangerously prone to radicalization, instability, violence and the possibility of internal collapse, external meddling or both. Some (like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) could go either way.

Kaplan is at his best when he describes the “new Great Game” that is now unfolding across the Indian Ocean. As he correctly notes, it is China that is primarily responsible for setting this game in motion. Since the turn of this century, that country’s explosive economic growth has propelled it outward in search of markets, materials and, above all, energy. Thirsty for oil, Chinese tankers now ply the waters from the western Pacific, down through the narrow Strait of Malacca off Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf.

In a world governed solely by the laws of supply and demand, China’s increasing engagement in global energy markets would pose no serious problems. But there are other forces at work. Despite their smiles and professions of good will, China’s leaders believe that the United States is threatened by their country’s rise and ultimately seeks to thwart it. Given the fact that the United States Navy dominates the world’s oceans, a growing dependence on seaborne energy imports represents a potentially deadly vulnerability in Chinese eyes.

Beijing has responded in two ways: first by beginning to build up its own naval power, and

Chinese Aircraft Carrier

second by seeking alternative supply routes that are less susceptible to interdiction by the United States or other hostile powers. Included among these are overland pipelines to contiguous energy sources in Central Asia and a variety of ambitious engineering projects (including a new port at Gwadar in Pakistan, other ports and pipelines in Myanmar, and a possible canal across the isthmus of Thailand) that could shorten the route from Persian Gulf suppliers to Chinese consumers.

The pursuit of energy, Kaplan explains, has thus caused China to become much more active and visible in an area that a fast-growing India regards as its own backyard. In response, despite continuing worries over internal stability and the perpetual problem of a hostile Pakistan, Indian planners have begun to broaden their strategic horizons.

Chinese Naval Vessel in the Indian Ocean

New Delhi now seeks to compete with Beijing for influence in Myanmar and to counter its initiatives around the Bay of Bengal by strengthening ties with Vietnam and Indonesia in the South China Sea.

A bigger navy will give India the means with which to defend its own expanding energy imports and perhaps to exert leverage in a future confrontation by threatening China’s. Finally, over the past decade, India has entered into a quasi-alliance relationship with the United States.

Kaplan holds open the possibility that nascent great-power rivalry will lead to ever closer cooperation. Perhaps, as the two Asian giants grow stronger, and with America “in elegant decline,” the era of United States naval dominance in the Greater Indian Ocean will give way to “an American-Indian-Chinese condominium of sorts.” Pursuing their shared interests in peaceful trade and development, the three nations could collaborate to oppose piracy, preserve freedom of navigation and respond to natural disasters.

Perhaps. What seems more plausible at this point is that the competitive impulses Kaplan so accurately assesses will grow stronger. If that is what happens, then the United States and India are very likely to find themselves working harder and more closely in the years ahead to balance ­China’s growing power.

*Aaron L. Friedberg is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton. His new book, “A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia,” will be published next year.

“Mr. Prime Minister, be your own counsel”, advises SakMAK47

November 25, 2010

Snap Election: “Mr Prime Minister, Be Your own counsel”, advises SakMAK47

I think Dato Najib has better watch out for overzealous news carriers saying that it’s time for general elections. The recent victories in Galas and Batu Sapi are no indicators of a changing tide in people’s affection.  Galas was won on account of Tengku Razaleigh. Batu Sapi’s victory leaves a sour aftertaste. Shafie Afdal worked hard to deliver victory at Batu Sapi. Good for him, though not necessarily for BN. People are looking out for success stories. Where are they?

Islamic Fashion Show

Success at carrying out an Islamic Fashion show in Monaco doesn’t conjure a feel good approval. People know, that show was just a machination by Reza Shah to earn some money. Those people attending the BAKTI bash the other day are also not impressed by the attendance of Shahrukh Khan and a bevy of Bollywood beauties gracing the event.

While they view as salutary the concern of HRH the Sultan of Selangor over the RM300, 000 dinner party by Yayasan Selangor, people are also eager to know how much the spenders spent on the Islamic Fashion Show in Monaco or the same event at St Regis New York. Can Messrs. Jamie Fox, Robert Deniro or Charlize Theron provide any semblance of accreditation that Islamic fashion has arrived? These elaborate PR exercises are too far removed from the exacting demands of life and reality in Malaysia.

People want Purge of UMNO Leadership

What are people looking for? People want to see a purge of UMNO leadership. UMNO is a byword for arrogance and detachment from reality. UMNO is the political version of jom heboh and rah rah get together. Staying in power isn’t the result of only UMNO people voting in. it’s the people. You go around, there is still this easy to utter expletives against UMNO. To me this signifies a general attitude that is worrying.

What are people actually looking out for? First of all they want to see a new UMNO leadership composed of people, young or old who are committed to the greater good of society. They simply want good men at the helm. Dedicated, purposeful, determined and more or less clean. The last requirement usually insisting on a saintly quality is much overrated. The saintly person gets credit for himself and earns spiritual points. A saintly but incompetent leader while a credit for himself is a disservice for the greater good. It’s not like entering priesthood.

Don’t blink on the Economy

People will definitely be looking at the state of the economy. With the appreciation of our currency, our exports will become relatively more expensive and we can expect export earnings to shrink. In major towns, the price of homes is getting more expensive by the day. In Selangor Malays are selling their houses in Taman Tun because of better price. With this demographic shift, UMNO/BN can forget about regaining Selangor.

Corruption is still the main scourge

The main scourge of this country is still corruption at almost every level of government and among political leaders. I am reminded of the story of Voltaire which I have told before. He disembarked in Portsmouth and was greeted by an execution of a British Admiral. Upon inquiry he was told that was the penalty for the inability of the Admiral in killing French navy men. On the necessity of doing the macabre, he was told that every once in a while, the British finds it necessary to kill one or two admirals so that others will work harder.

South Africa’s former police chief and ex-president of Interpol Jackie Selebi was convicted of corruption for accepting bribes from organized crime. The trial laid out his startling links with the criminal underworld, in particular with convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti who was accused of giving him cash and luxury gifts. Would this kind of thing happen in Malaysia? In Hong Kong, the ICAC will check the bank accounts of top government officers including former top cop to see whether they have accumulated money beyond their salaries. Will that happen in Malaysia?

Najib’s Voltaire Moment: Arrest 2 or 3 Ministers

The best thing that can shore up PM Najib’s credibility and seriousness is to arrest 2 or 3 ministers. This  should be our Voltaire moment. Please don’t make a decision based on the perceived weakness of the PKR and PR. Those PKR people are just going through a phase of bloodletting. They will regroup and reunite.

Zaid’s Big Mistake

Don’t use Zaid Ibrahim as a yardstick. If he forms another political party, he will fade into oblivion. His

A Shattered Zaid Scheme

only chance to stand as candidate would probably be as PAS candidate. Zaid Ibrahim made the mistake of forgetting that PKR was formed in the first place, having as one of its core mission, seeking justice for Anwar. It’s in their DNA and Zaid just can’t wish this will go away.

Focus on UMNO’s strengths

Decide on the basis of our own strength. This involves an honest evaluation of the readiness of the combat troops on the ground; the acceptance of the people of UMNO and BN and putting up winnable candidates.

The government in addition must earn the respect from the public. It must show some success stories. The public is weary of empty promises. They now want action. The clamoring are in line with the PM’s commitment to uphold the rule of law and imposing zero tolerance on corruption. It would appear every avenue of government spending is seen as a chance to skim the fat.

Cost Overruns and Uncontrolled Spending

The purchase of laptop computers which can be gotten at maybe RM 200 from China are sold at RM 1000 apiece. A friend of mind has a more practical idea of refurbishing old laptops with new innards to make them current. These can be sold at a very much cheaper price than importing new. A project such as building the new LCCT2 will incur cost overruns.

Those people doing the costing and the quantity surveyors must have been boozed out of their heads to “undercost” the project the first time around. The purchase of capital items seems to be always overpriced because it incorporates the tea money meant for retiring KSUs and so forth. A former KSU of Home Affairs sits on the board of the Lotus group of restaurants and you wonder how on earth Lotus restaurants get unlimited supply of foreign workers.

So, please Mr. Prime Minister be your own counsel. You have been at this game since 1976. You are better at reading the tea leaves than others.

Of Teeming Egos and Narcissism-Part 3

November 25, 2010

Of Teeming Egos and Narcissism–Part 3

by Terence Netto

So long as he was the unofficial coordinator of the Common Policy Framework for Pakatan Rakyat, Zaid Ibrahim was seen to be doing well, so well in fact that when Hindraf’s P Waythamoorthy wanted his movement’s inputs in the CPF, he sought and obtained a meeting with Zaid in Singapore in November of 2009.

Waythamoorthy found Zaid an agreeable interlocutor who while firmly spurning Hindraf’s more unrealistic demands, gave its exiled champion the impression that Pakatan’s CPF would accommodate the Hindu rights body’s more legitimate concerns.

Waythamoorthy came away from the meeting with Zaid with the feeling that the latter was a more amenable interlocutor than Anwar Ibrahim towards whom Hindraf felt ambivalent.

Hindraf viewed Anwar as brilliant at quickly leveraging on their show of force of November, 2007, but they discovered him to be indifferent in the follow-up. Worse, they saw Anwar as being devious in exploiting strains within the leadership of the movement, entertaining its more spurious elements that were agreeable to joining PKR while ignoring the movement’s more durable leaders.

Zaid came away from the meeting with Waythamoorthy, confident that he, more than Anwar, had the pulse of the minorities in Malaysia. Earlier interactions with PKR leaders in Sabah and Sarawak sustained his perception his touch was surer on how to integrate minority aspirations in Pakatan’s agenda of national salvation of the Malaysian polity.

So long as Zaid hewed to the role of unofficial policy coordinator for Pakatan Rakyat, he was doing okay. But when factions within PKR, which by late 2009 were deeply distressed with Anwar, began regarding Zaid as an alternative leader, matters began to careen out of control.

Seeds of discontentment

Fluid perceptions of power and fear, renowned Greek historian Thucydides observed, are the classic causes of war. In a political party, these are the ingredients of internecine conflict. By late 2009, it became evident that long-serving PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali was in recessional as age, illness in the family, and the pull of memoir writing began to impose their introspective constraints.

Syed Husin, 74, was going to retire and PKR would no longer have a buffer between their Mandela-like supremo and the motley crew that composed its third-tier of leadership. Syed Husin not only ignored entreaties he stay on to avoid a damaging battle for the No 2 position; he underestimated the propensity for disorder in the party.

Left-of-centre ideologues are apt to underrate the human will to evil. They think problems in society stem from a lack of education and awareness. Multiply the stock of knowledge and narrow the income gap between the top tier and the bottom half and what have you – a social democratic nirvana.

Accordingly, Syed Husin and the former Parti Rakyat Malaysia cohort in PKR began to urge Anwar to go for direct elections to all posts in PKR in the upcoming party elections, if only to demonstrate the superiority of the PKR way to a people’s democracy, in contradistinction to the corruption-ridden methods by which depised rival UMNO elects its leaders.

Anwar is no ideologue of the left or right; he is too pragmatic a politician to mistake abstractions for reality. He looks to what will motor the rakyat to take them from one point to the next, without a particular bias for any ideological strain. Though excited by the world of ideas, he is not particularly attached to any, judging each by their efficacy and utility to the goals he has in mind.

In early 2010, weighed down by a second round of the sodomy charges he faced in 1998-99, and seeing the way his legal defence had had all their preliminary objections to his looming trial struck down, Anwar began to prepare for the eventuality of his jailing.

This entailed the renewal of exploratory chats with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, then UMNO’s most famous dissident and PM-in-perennial-waiting.

Ku Li as Interim PM

In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami of March 2008, Anwar had spoken to Razaleigh about leading a rump from UMNO to form a Pakatan-plus plurality in Parliament that would govern, with Ku Li as interim prime minister, until another general election is held to stabilise what would then be a decisive Pakatan majority, this time with Anwar as head honcho.

The Anwar-Ku Li chats dribbled into futility, mainly on account of Ku Li’s tendency to up his side of the bargain whenever Anwar approached with a slightly revised proffer than he had previously.

Needless to say, the negotiations were rendered moot by Ku Li’s burgeoning hopes that the upcoming UMNO party elections would spurn tsunami-devastated president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, set aside heir apparent Najib Razak as too problematic, and turn, at long last, to the Kelantan prince for grand rectification of the years when UMNO had lost its way, simply from preferring a Mahathir to a Razaleigh.

Even when those hopes evaporated in the ignominy of a single nomination from his constituency of Gua Musang for the UMNO presidency in the party elections of March of 2009, Ku Li did not lose hope.He and his supporters waited with bated breath as Najib, unopposed for president in the party polls, shaped to replace Abdullah in early April of 2009.

A brief delay between Abdullah’s resignation and Najib’s swearing-in caused a flurry of speculation that Ku Li could be summoned to form a government. The rulers’ conference of the previous month had given him hope that he could be summoned because he was asked to stand by to provide an overview of the political situation.

In the event, the briefing did not take pace but the hiatus between Abdullah’s resignation and Najib’s swearing-in once again spurred hopes that the summons would come. It did not.

But the unquenchably optimistic Ku Li was undeterred.  Though he is too much the gentleman to take his pleasure in others’ discomfiture, he knew that Anwar’s legal problems would soon provide another shot at the top prize.

Renew Talks

So when Anwar early this year, in anticipation of a jailing over the sodomy issue, began to chat with Ku Li once again on the matter of his leading a rump from UMNO to combine with Pakatan MPs to form a slight plurality in Parliament, Ku Li was amenable.

He knew that the general public viewed Anwar’s legal difficulties as a grotesque rerun of 1998-99. Anwar’s jailing would be considered intolerable, leading to a minor revolt in the UMNO backbench and an eventual conjoining of parliamentary forces to unseat UMNO-BN, with improvised leader Ku Li showing the king that he enjoyed the confidence of a majority.

This would lead to new elections with Ku Li as leader of a Pakatan-plus government while Anwar sorted out his legal predicament.

Can he make the difference in PKR?

The bargaining over the details of this hypothetical scenario hit a snag when Ku Li demanded that Anwar allow him to choose 30 candidates for seats allocated to Ku Li’s faction in the snap polls that Ku Li would call after posting a parliamentary majority and electing to dissolve the house.

The PKR supremo was only willing to concede 10. Once in the amiable bantering and haggling over this issue, Ku Li, on the phone with Anwar, casually let on that “five of your boys are here”, meaning five PKR MPs were at that very moment talking to the Gua Musang MP while their leader was on the line with the man they were visiting.

It is not certain whether that was the critical moment when Anwar Ibrahim yielded to Syed Husin’s argument that direct elections be allowed for all top posts in PKR. But it is plausible that at that moment he felt he needed a loyalist in the No 2 post if he went to jail, the better to forestall a scuttling of the party by uncertain MPs when the chief pilot is gaoled.

From that time on a contest for the deputy president’s post between loyalist Azmin Ali and dissident Zaid became inevitable – with all the damaging effects that that battle has had on PKR’s image and preparations for a fast approaching general election.


A Fond Tribute to Dr Lim Chong Eu, the Founder of Modern Penang

November 25, 2010

A Fond Tribute to Tun Lim Chong Eu, Founder of Modern Penang  and a Towering Malaysian

by Sharanjit Singh, Audrey Dermawan and Looi Sue Chern–

Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu (1919-2010), the man behind Penang’s growth from a little-known island state to a model of economic success, has died. He was 91.

The charismatic politician was widely regarded as a father figure who transcended ethnic boundaries and religious or cultural differences.

Dr Lim’s eldest son, Lim Chien Aun, said his father was brought home to the family house from Penang Hospital at 6pm and died at 9pm. Dr Lim had been hospitalised since Oct 26 after suffering a stroke and had been in a coma since.

His death closes an important chapter in Penang’s history as Dr Lim was instrumental in Penang’s economic development when he was chief minister.  Although he retired from politics 20 years ago, his name still echoes in Penang, a state he gave a major makeover during his many years as chief minister.

He transformed Penang from an economy that depended solely on its free-port status to an urbanised and industrialised state good enough to be known as the Silicon Valley of Malaysia. Dr Lim gave Penang factories, brought in multinationals and set up the state government’s investment arm, Penang Development Corporation.

It was his hard work and the sound foundation he laid all those years that the big names people see today — such as Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, Robert Bosch, Seagate and Renesas Semiconductor — are in the Bayan Lepas industrial zone.
Dr Lim also gave the state a structure most Penangites see every day: the state’s first skyscraper, the 65-storey Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (Komtar). In its heyday, Komtar was the tallest building in Asia, standing at 232m when it was completed in 1986.

It was also during his tenure as chief minister that the multi-million ringgit Komtar project began to take shape as an integrated development, comprising business, retail space and offices to provide a centralised administrative and civic centre for Penangites.

Once completed, all local, state and Federal Government departments in Penang were place under the same roof in Komtar. Dr Lim was Penang’s longest-serving chief minister, leading the state and shaping its identity for 21 years from 1969 to 1990.

He was indeed a towering politician and leader who had braved through stormy weather for five terms. Born on May 28, 1919, in Penang, Dr Lim was educated at Penang Free School, where he was King’s Scholar in 1937. He later studied at Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he obtained his degrees in medicine and surgery in 1944.

Dr Lim was educated at the Penang Free School

His colourful political journey began after his return to Penang. He was appointed to the Penang Local Council in 1951 and then the federal legislature in 1955, representing Penang and as chief whip for the Alliance.

During that time, he was also a practising medical doctor, serving in the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force from 1951 until 1954 before going into private practice.

At age 39, Dr Lim, who was with MCA at the time, challenged incumbent Tun Tan Cheng Lock for the party presidency and won with only a 22-vote majority in 1958.

He called an extraordinary general meeting to amend the party constitution, which led to objections and a split in the party. During his one-year tenure as MCA president, he and then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman also had political differences.

The tensions escalated on the eve of the 1959 general election when Dr Lim demanded 40 parliamentary seats and that Mandarin be made an official language. When he rejected Tunku Abdul Rahman’s allocation of 31 seats instead of the original 28, the relationship between the two worsened.

In December 1960, he left MCA and two years later, formed the United Democratic Party. In 1968, he became one of the founding members of Gerakan, which started out as an opposition party against the ruling Alliance.

Despite being a new party, Gerakan captured Penang in the 1969 general election, making Dr Lim, who was the party’s president, the new chief minister, succeeding Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee.

Life after that was not a honeymoon and Dr Lim was forced to make a decision that changed Gerakan’s political direction and Penang’s fate as an opposition state. In 1973, Gerakan joined the newly set up Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, becoming a partner to former political rivals MCA, UMNO and MIC.

Under his leadership, the party remained in power in Penang until he retired from politics in 1990 after the general election that year, following his loss in Padang Kota, a state constituency he had defended since 1969.

He was succeeded by his former political secretary, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who was Penang’s third chief minister until March 2008.

Those who had met Dr Lim and knew him would likely remember him as a person who was serious with his job, straight to the point, rarely showed his emotions in public and so sharp that he could put people with specialised degrees to shame.

He was fondly known as the “old man” by members of his party, a reference used in grudging respect for what he had accomplished for Penang, where he had spent many years polishing the “pearl” so it would continue to shine after him.

Dr Lim had always known that the future was going to be a challenging one for Malaysians. In his speech on national integration at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 1995, he described himself as an “old bee that lingered in an environment best to build his hive”, but in the next 25 years as the nation moved towards 2020, the people would become very “busy bees”. With just that, Malaysians would be successful in the future, he had said.

After his retirement, Dr Lim concentrated on business and was chairman and adviser to several large corporations. He was pro-chancellor of USM from 1994 to 1999, and was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Law. Dr. Lim was also conferred the “Doctorate in Honoris Causa” by his alma mater, Edinburgh University, and even received a medal from Emperor Akihito of Japan. In 2007, when Gerakan opened its Wawasan Open University, Dr Lim was named founding chancellor.

He is survived by his wife Toh Puan Goh Sing Yeng and four children: Chien Aun, Chien Cheng, Pao Lin and Pao Yen.

New Rules for Hot Money

November 24, 2010

New Rules for Hot Money

by Nouriel Roubini

Capital flows to emerging-market economies have been on a boom-bust merry-go-round for decades. In the past year, the world has seen another boom, with a tsunami of capital, portfolio equity, and fixed-income investments surging into emerging-market countries perceived as having strong macroeconomic, policy, and financial fundamentals.

Such inflows are driven in part by short-term cyclical factors (interest-rate differentials and a wall of liquidity chasing higher-yielding assets as zero policy rates and more quantitative easing reduce opportunities in the sluggish advanced economies). But longer-term secular factors also play a role. These include emerging markets’ long-term growth differentials relative to advanced economies; investors’ greater willingness to diversify beyond their home markets; and the expectation of long-term nominal and real appreciation of emerging-market currencies.

Given all this, the most critical policy question in emerging markets today is how to respond to inflows that will inevitably drive up their exchange rates and threaten export-led growth.

The first option is to do nothing and allow the currency to appreciate. This may be the right response if the inflows and upward pressure on the exchange rate are driven by fundamental factors (a current-account surplus, an undervalued currency, a large and persistent growth differential).

But, in many cases, inflows are driven by short-term factors, fads, and irrational exuberance, which can lead to an overvalued currency, the crowding out of non-traditional export sectors or import-competing sectors, a loss of competitiveness, and eventually a large current-account deficit and thus tighter external constraints on growth.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the world’s biggest exporter, China, is aggressively intervening to minimize any appreciation of the renminbi. If China doesn’t allow the renminbi to strengthen, other emerging markets will remain wary of letting their currencies appreciate too much and lose competitiveness.

If allowing a currency to appreciate freely is costly, the second option is unsterilized foreign-exchange intervention. This is effective in stemming upward exchange-rate pressure, but it feeds the beast: it exacerbates overheating in already fast-growing emerging markets, causing inflation and leading to excessive credit growth, which can fuel dangerous asset bubbles.

The third option is sterilized intervention. This prevents monetary and credit growth, but, by keeping interest-rate differentials high, sterilized intervention feeds carry-trade inflows, thus contributing to the problem that it was supposed to solve.

The fourth option is to impose capital controls on inflows (or liberalize controls on outflows).  Leaving aside the issue of whether or not such controls are “leaky,” evidence suggests that controls on inflows of short-term “hot money” do not affect the overall amount of capital inflows. Thus, such controls are ineffective in reducing short-term cyclical pressure on the currency to appreciate.

The fifth option is to tighten fiscal policy and reduce budget deficits with the aim of lowering the high interest rates that drive the inflows. But sounder fiscal policy might lead to even higher inflows as the country’s external balance and sovereign-risk outlook improve.

A sixth option – especially where a country has carried out partially sterilized intervention to prevent excessive currency appreciation – is to reduce the risk of credit and asset bubbles by imposing prudential supervision of the financial system. This should be aimed at restraining excessive credit growth, which the monetary growth that follows currency intervention would otherwise cause. However, direct controls on credit growth, while necessary, are often leaky and not very binding in practice.

The final option is massive, large-scale, and permanent sterilized intervention – or, equivalently, the use of sovereign wealth funds or other fiscal-stabilization mechanisms – to accumulate the foreign assets needed to compensate for the effects on the currency’s value brought about by long-term inflows. The argument for this option is that long-term secular factors are important drivers of capital inflows, as advanced-economy investors discover that they are underweight in emerging-market assets and reduce their portfolios’ “home bias.”

Sterilized intervention usually doesn’t work: if assets in advanced economies and emerging markets remain perfectly substitutable, inflows will continue as long as interest-rate differentials persist. But the demand for emerging-market assets is neither infinite nor perfectly substitutable for the assets of advanced economies – even for given interest-rate differentials – because these assets have very different liquidity and credit risks.

This means that at some point large-scale, persistent sterilized foreign-exchange intervention – amounting to several percentage points of GDP – would satisfy the additional demand for emerging-market assets and stop the inflows, even if interest-rate differentials remain. As sterilization induces issuance of domestic assets, global investors’ desire for diversification would be met without causing excessive currency appreciation, with all its collateral damage, in emerging markets.

Of course, currency appreciation should not be prevented altogether. When justified by economic fundamentals, the exchange rate should be allowed to rise gradually. But when a currency’s appreciation is triggered by capital inflows that represent the asset-diversification preferences of advanced-economy investors, it can and should be resisted.–Project Syndicate

Nouriel Roubini is professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, NYU and Chairman of Roubini Global Economics. This column is based on a longer research paper titled “How Should Emerging Markets Manage Capital Inflows and Currency Appreciation?” available at