Your Weekend Entertainment of Malay Songs

March 31, 2012

Your Weekend Entertainment of Malay Songs

It is time we bring to you some well known numbers by Malaysian/Singaporean singers of the 1960s. May they rekindle memories of what it was in those glory days when life in Malaysia was simple and carefree. We feature Ahmad Jais, J. Mizan, Wan Salman, A. Halim and D.J. Dave. Not to be left out, Rafaeh Buang and Kartina Dahari lend the feminine touch to heal wounded hearts. May these tunes also bring back old dreams to Bean, Tok Cik, Semper Fi, Tean Rean and the kerbau riders. Please relax and have a great weekend.- Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Ahmad Jais-Lembaran Terakhir

Terbiar Keseorgangan

Di Ambang Sore

J. Mizan–Hari Ini Dan Semalam

Desa Permai

Wan Salman- Keluhan Dara

A. Halim–Salam Mesra

DJ Dave- Nora

Rafaeh Buang–Tangisan Di SisiKu

Sayang Di Sayang

Kartina Dahari–Rindu

Tinggi Gunung Seribu Janji

Burmese Elections: Malaysian Observers Ready (for What?)

March 31, 2012

Burmese Elections: Malaysian Observers Ready (for What?)

by Leslean Arshad, Bernama

Members of a Malaysian delegation are all set to roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of being part of a host of international observers of Sunday’s by-elections in reform-pursuing Burma.

rangoon burma pagodaThe team comprises two Members of Parliament, an Election Commission official, three officials from the Malaysian Embassy in Burma and personnel from the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) and Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

They will observe the polls being held to fill 45 seats vacated by lawmakers who have been appointed to fill posts of ministers and other executive positions in the Union Government.

Malaysian Ambassador to Burma Dr Ahmad Faisal Muhamad, who is one of the observers, said preparations have been made to travel to the identified constituencies on Sunday. “We are ready to ‘turun padang’ (go down to the ground) for this job,” he said.

Foreign observers invited

The Malaysian team held meetings and briefings on Friday in preparation for the task. Some the constituencies it will visit are in the Hlegu and Minglataungnyunt regions in Rangoon. Burma has invited its fellow ASEAN members, including Malaysia, as well as other countries to observe the by-elections, which are an indicator of Burma’s progress in the area of reforms.

After six decades of military rule, Burma is fast moving towards greater democratisation under President U Thein Sein. Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwi held a briefing on the polls for more than 100 invited observers and diplomats on Thursday in Rangoon and reportedly told them that they could travel to constituencies of their choice to witness the by-elections.

The polls could herald the return of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to politics. Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), is contesting a seat near Rangoon.

- Bernama

Kedah Politics: UMNO-BN needs a new Leader

March 31, 2012

Kedah Politics: UMNO-BN needs a new Leader

by Rashid Ahmad (03-30-12)@

Kedah Barisan Nasional (BN) has lost a chance to shake the PAS-led Pakatan Rakyat state government when it did not “exploit” the recent crisis in the state administration. Political observers said the internal conflict in Kedah PAS had split the party and made it “vulnerable” to outside attacks but BN did not seize the opportunity, thus making it difficult for BN to retake the state.

Kedah PAS, say some political observers, is being manipulated by two main players keen to helm the state administration and also by “outside forces”.They said Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak, who is from the old school of thoughts, is aligned to party president Abdul Hadi Awang. He is seen as the leader of the “fundamentalists” and is fighting hard against attempts from the liberals to take over the state administration.

Azizan’s “foes from within” – Kedah PAS Deputy Commissioner (I) Phahrolrazi Zawawi and Kedah PAS Deputy Commissioner (II) Ismail Salleh – are aligned to the liberals and they striving to push Azizan out. Words have it that the main reason for the attempted “mutiny” against Azizan is to find a place for Party Deputy President Mohamed Sabu to contest in the upcoming general election.

Mohamed Sabu or Mat Sabu, as he is popularly known, is said to be seeking for a seat in Kedah as he is not wanted in Kelantan, where he once stood as MP and won. The crisis, though resolved, is still a pain in the neck for PAS as Azizan is said to be still sticking to his decision not to entertain or recognise Phahrolrazi and Ismail as followers in the state administration.

Credible leader

So the split in PAS still exists but BN has failed to exploit it to enhance its chances of diluting PAS influence among the fence-sitters in the state.A political analyst, Ramli Mohd Yunus, said another BN weakness in the state was its failure to appoint a credible leader to lead Kedah as Menteri Besar if it comes back to power.

“Apologising [to the people for BN's mistakes in the past] is one thing but the main thrust is to win back the hearts and minds of the voters, particularly Malays. This can be achieved if BN has picked a credible, MB-material leader who will helm the state if the coalition wins.

“Kedah Malays, including the Chinese who have blended well with the Malay culture, know past and present BN and UMNO leaders in the state very well.They want to hear and see from the Prime Minister himself who he picks to lead the state. The way I see it, if Najib picks the wrong man, the votes will go to the other side.If Najib picks the man they respect and know, then the votes will go to BN. So it’s the man who will lead the state as menteri besar that matters now, not issues,” he said.

Even BN leaders in Kuala Lumpur share the same views. Observers believe that Mukhriz Mahathir is the man who could gain the voters’ confidence.

Matter of personality

Ramli said that he too has heard from the grassroots members in the state and also from some Chinese voters that Mukhriz (left) is the man best suited to take over should PAS fall.

“Kedah Malays and even some Chinese still hold Dr Mahathir Mohamad in high regard and obviously they also respect his son Muhkriz.What they told me is that Muhkriz is a new man and even though he is naïve in politics, he has the charisma to lead the state. Moreover, he is clean. But BN must also not ignore Dr Mahathir in its campaign because from what I gathered from the grassroots members, his presence may bring Kedah back to BN,” Ramli said.

However, there are some local leaders in Kedah who would not take too kindly to Mukhriz’s elevation if Najib decides to tap his shoulder. But Ramli believes the resentment was normal and would fade in time.

“The important point here is that Kedah BN needs a charismatic leader, a new man who has no record whatsoever. In this case, if it’s Mukhriz, it will be easier to win the hearts and minds of the voters because they still respect his father,” Ramli said. “So in my opinion half the battle will be won if Najib picks Mukhriz,” he added.

Thus, the battle for BN in Kedah is a matter of personality – the man who will lead the state after the general election. It all depends on Najib who he wants in the driver’s seat. After all, BN Kedah needs just four more seats to win the state. BN now has 16 out of the 36 state seats (UMNO has 14, MCA one and Gerakan one).

The Unmooring of American Military Power

March 31, 2012

Ny Times Book Review

Books of The Times

Review: Rachel Maddow‘s Drift:The Unmooring of American Military Power

by Janet Maslin(03-28-12)

A squabble is a noisy quarrel over a trivial matter. A polemic is an aggressive attack on the opinions and principles of others. A screaming match is a contest in which contradictory points are stubbornly reiterated, with no regard for whatever else has been said. A political talk show is a gladiatorial contest in which squabbles, polemics and screaming matches are exploited for their entertainment value.

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.

Ms. Maddow’s point is that the way we go to war has changed: that there has been an expansion of presidential power, a corresponding collapse of Congressional backbone and a diminution of public attention. She does not see this in conspiratorial terms, but she has an explanation for the step-by-step way it evolved. She thinks the transformation began with a question asked by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 as he prepared to more than double the ground forces in Vietnam: “You don’t think I ought  have a joint session, do you?” Did he need authorization from Congress, he asked the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to make a troop deployment like that?

That very question indicates that Johnson understood the importance of Congressional authority. But it is Ms. Maddow’s contention that subsequent Presidents have even more deliberately sought to avoid dragging Congress into the conversation, because Congressional debates and military allocations upset the public. So does the calling up of troops. As the waging of war has grown increasingly secretive and privatized, Presidents have built on precedent. They have seen less and less advantage in letting Congress weigh in on these decisions.

“Drift” says this slide was not inevitable. “And it wasn’t inexorable either,” Ms. Maddow (right) writes. “You can trace it to specific decisions, made for specific, logical reasons.” Her book does exactly that, in a crisp, sometimes too-smart-alecky style. (Is “Whoopsie!” the best thing to say about the accidental mishandling of nuclear weapons?) It’s easy to read and just as easy to wrestle with. It is a packaging coup for Ms. Maddow to use this blurb from Roger Ailes of Fox News: “People who like Rachel will love the book. People who don’t will get angry, but aggressive debate is good for America.”

Anyone itching for a fight can simply question Ms. Maddow’s references to the founding fathers. Whoopsie! She misquotes Thomas Jefferson as saying, “One of my favorite ideas is, never keep an unnecessary soldier.” But Jefferson actually cited two of his favorite ideas in that passage. And he probably had even more. Partisan bickering is a good way of missing the founders’ larger point: that they intended the power to declare war to lie with Congress, not with the President.

“America’s structural disinclination to declare war is not a sign that something’s gone wrong,” she writes. “It’s not a bug in the system. It is the system.” On its simplest level, “Drift” is a report card on how well the system has functioned.

President Reagan comes under this book’s heaviest fire for “an unwavering and steadfast faith in the correctness of whatever came out of his mouth.” Ms. Maddow methodically illustrates how Reagan learned as a candidate that saber rattling need not be linked to facts. She finds instances in which William F. Buckley, Senator Barry M. Goldwater and John Wayne, each disposed toward Reagan’s politics, found reason to question his veracity as he inveighed against America’s real and imagined enemies. A letter from Wayne accused Reagan of either “misinforming people” or being “damned obtuse when it comes to reading the English language.”

Ms. Maddow thinks the most durable restraint on Presidents was put in place by General Creighton W. Abrams, President Richard M. Nixon’s Army Chief of Staff. Under the Abrams Doctrine, which made it impossible to go to war without calling up the “in-your-neighborhood citizen-soldiers” of the Reserves and National Guard, official combat was no longer possible without the public’s noticing.

But Ms. Maddow explains how this last restraint became undermined when a “skittish and unsure” President Clinton was faced with Bosnia and the use of private contractors became a form of damage control. Later parts of the book outline how the buildup of C.I.A. secret forces and these private contractors have dimmed public awareness of how and when war is waged.

Ms. Maddow’s way of making points, whether on the page or on the air, follows a distinct pattern. She begins a chapter with something small and piquant, like the Houbara bustard, a bird found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She will explain the small thing, come up with a cute phrase about it (“poor bustard”) and suddenly leap to explain why the American incursion into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden managed not to be regarded as an outright act of war.

Thank the bustard (which turned out to inhabit conservation land within Pakistan because Arab falconers favor the bustard as falcon prey) for this book’s explanation of how drone warfare is waged. And thank Ms. Maddow for picking this and every other fight that “Drift” provokes. It will be a smarter public debate than the kinds we’re used to.

A version of this review appeared in print on March 29, 2012, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: How War Came Home To Stay.

Spending RM600+ million in 11 Weeks

March 30, 2012

Spending RM600+ million in 11 Weeks

by  S Pathmawathy @

The government disbursed RM608.68 million over 11 weeks to Malaysia through Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s and his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin’s official nationwide visits. According to a parliamentary written reply, the “urgent allocation” approved from January to March 15, 2012 was handed out during their 14-state visit, with Perak recording the highest at RM220.38 million for 34 projects.

Jerai PAS MP Mohd Firdaus Jaafar on Tuesday had asked the Prime Minister’s Department to list to all the allocations approved for the Prime Minister’s official tour of the states. Allocations for Johor ranked second, with RM201.40 million doled out for 24 projects, while the Federal Territories came in third with RM63.25 million dispensed for nine projects.

Najib’s recent marathon forays to Perak and Selangor focussed on opposition-held areas, distributing goodies and promises to boost BN’s popularity, had fueled speculation that polls might be announced soon.

BN suffered its worst electoral defeat in 2008 under former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when the Opposition won 82 parliamentary seats and gained control of Kelantan, Kedah and Penang, as well as Perak and Selangor.

The ruling coalition, however, wrested away Perak in February 2009 – after three Pakatan Rakyat assemblypersons defected, mere days after Najib took over as state UMNO chief, plunging the state into political chaos which lasted several months.

Political pundits opined that the 13th general election will pose a critical challenge to the first-term premier to reverse inroads made by the Opposition in Parliament and to win much needed votes in Perak and Selangor, a fate analysts believe still hangs by a thread.

GE-13 Outcome Difficult to Predict, says Dr. UMNO

March 30, 2012

GE-13 Outcome Difficult to Predict, says  Dr. UMNO

by  Melissa Lee, Malaysia Chronicle

Former Prime Minister (Tun) Mahathir Mohamad admitted that it would be difficult to predict the results of the 13th General Election due to the “confusing” signals received from the ground.

“What is certain, it won’t be easy for BN to get two-thirds majority this time. The Opposition now is not like that of the past, and the current situation is rather confusing,” Bernama reported Mahathir as saying.

Such an acknowledgement must have been hard for Mahathir to make, given that the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition is led by Anwar Ibrahim, who he has tried hard to chop down to size and even oust from the political arena completely.

In 1998, fearing Anwar’s popularity and growing clout with the Malays, Mahathir threw trumped-up sodomy and corruption charges at his former Deputy and succeeded in jailing Anwar for 6 years. It was only after Mahathir retired that the Federal Court could summon enough courage to overturn the charges and acquit Anwar.

Now 64, Anwar is poised to lead the Pakatan into its second General Election as a coalition. Although denied formal registration by the Registrar of Societies, the Pakatan parties of PKR, PAS and DAP have signed a Common Policy Framework and agreed on a joint manifesto – the Buku Jingga – for GE-13 which is expected to be held before the end of this year.

Gaining strength

Since the 12th General Election in 2008, the Pakatan has been gaining from strength to strength, with two of the four states it governs – Selangor and Penang – praised by the Auditor-General as being the best managed. Both Penang and Selangor have also drawn most FDIs, trouncing the BN-ruled states.

A resurgent Anwar and Pakatan are now rated as having an even chance on improving on their 2008 electoral performance, with many pundits predicting they might even wrest the Federal Government from Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mahathir apparently shares this view, saying that the various assumptions made about the support for BN were fluid, with some people saying it was increasing and others saying otherwise. Mahathir did not point the finger at anyone, but a day ago, he called on Najib to allow ‘outsiders’ to contest for seats under the UMNO ticket.

Mahathir lamented the shortage of ‘smart’ Malays in UMNO, for which perhaps he is most to blame  due to his refusal to soften his hardline stance during his 22-year rule from 1981 to 2003.  Indeed, during his tenure, Malaysia experienced huge ‘brain drain” including from the Malay community, but Mahathir had always dismissed the issue as minor and with a ‘let them leave if they wish’ stance.

“None of Mahathir policies contributed to building a succession line in UMNO, so what is there to say now. And the damage was not only to UMNO but extended to the overall economy, where Malaysia lost talent beyond what it could afford. The effects on the economy are being played out now and if not reversed soon by fresh policies and reforms, we can expect further all-encompassing deterioration,” Ramon Navaratnam, the Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, told Malaysia Chronicle.

Najib failed to deliver

In recent weeks, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin had predicted BN would easily win in only three states – Johor, Melaka and Pahang. A large portion of the blame has been directed at Najib for failing to lead UMNO-BN out of its quagmire.

UMNO appointed Najib as its President in 2009 after forcing his predecessor Abdullah Badawi into early retirement for losing 5 states out of 13 to the Pakatan as well as the BN’s long-held two-thirds majority in Parliament. Mahathir and other UMNO leaders had hoped that Najib would reverse the slide and regain the crucial two-thirds majority, which would allow them to amend key laws to stay in power for perhaps a few more decades. But Najib’s clumsy political maneuvers were soon rejected by the people, who now see him as a fraud.

In his comments, it was telling of Daim to point out that if Najib failed to improve on Badawi’s results, he would have to step down in favor of either his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin or a ‘new challenger’. So far, no dark horse has emerged but bets are on that it could be Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has lambasted Najib for his haphazard policies and weak leadership.

During Najib’s tenure which began in April 2009, Malaysia suffered its worst bouts of racial and religious intolerance.  Extremist groups such as PERKASA and JATI were sponsored and allowed to flourish. At the same time, Najib preached policies of moderation to the West. But it looks like even they have found him out, with the influential Washington Post slamming him as a “champion of double-talk”.

Nonetheless, even with his mandate to rule expiring in March 2013, Najib has continued with the same strategies of gutter politicking against Anwar, using racism and religious bigotry to scare the Malays into voting for UMNO so that it can ‘protect’ them from the non-Malays.

Economy soft and Corruption rampant

Meanwhile, the economy remains neglected and soft due to Najib’s frequent overseas trips which have been criticized for burning a hole in taxpayers’ pockets. Corruption remains at a record high, with Malaysia slipping 4 spots to 60 in the 2011 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. Malaysia scored 4.3 compared to New Zealand, the least corrupt at 9.5, and Somalia and North Korea who each scored 1.0, making them the two most corrupt nations in the survey. In ASEAN, Singapore scored 9.3 and Brunei 6.3.

Malaysia Chronicle

The A-G Chambers practises selective prosecution, says MACC

March 29, 2012

The A-G Chambers practises selective prosecution, says MACC

by Kuek Ser Kuang Keng@

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigates all allegations of corruption made to it, but it is the Attorney-General’s Chambers that refuses to file in court some of the cases the MACC deems valid.

NONE“Come, show me which case has not been investigated by MACC. There is not even one case that we did not investigate,” its Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Mohd Shukri Abdull (left) told a forum in Shah Alam today.

“The problem is, many people want the cases to be charged in court, but if you ask me on this issue, you are asking the wrong person. To us, there are valid cases (to be charged in court), but to the Deputy Public Prosecutor, there is no case to answer, so what can we do?” Shukri told the participants, who responded with loud cries of lawan (fight).

Giving the audience a dry smile, Shukri replied: “How to fight? MACC has no (prosecution) power.”

The articulate senior officer who has 27 years of combating graft behind him, was trying his best to convince the excited audience that MACC was free from political interference and doing its best to haul up corrupt politicians to face the music.

The cheers and applause from the floor suggested that his explanation was well received by the hundreds at the forum titled “Political Bribery: Reality or Perception”, organised by Malay daily Sinar Harian.

“If my officers and I were to act according to our hearts, we would arrest all! But we can’t, because the charges must be based on evidence, not sentiment,” Shukri said, attracting another round of applause from the floor.

NONEThe other three speakers at the forum were PKR Strategy Director Rafizi Ramli (right), BN’s Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Political Analyst Chandra Muzaffar.

The forum’s moderator was International Islamic University of Malaysia lecturer Maslee Malik. Responding to Shukri’s ‘complaint’ Rafizi quickly came to his defence.

“MACC has no prosecution power”

“If you want to blame, don’t blame Shukri but blame Abdul Rahman because he is the member of Special Parliamentar yCommittee on Anti-Corruption,” said Rafizi. And Shukri who was sitting beside him immediately extended his hand and shook with Rafizi, sending the audience into fits of guffaws.

Rafizi then took potshots at Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s earlier promise that MACC will be given more power should BN retain two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general election.

“If I were the Prime Minister, no need to amend the constitution just replace the attorney-general with someone who can work with the MACC,” he suggested.

NONEAbdul Rahman (right) then criticised Rafizi for not respecting the principle of separation of powers, pointing out that should the MACC be given both the power to investigate and prosecute, it would create another problem.

Rafizi quickly corrected Abdul Rahman that he was suggesting to change the A-G, not to give MACC prosecution power, but Abdul Rahman claimed that it was the stance of Pakatan Rakyat representative in the parliamentary committee.

Earlier, Shukri also stressed that his officers in the commission, though having different political inclinations are very professional when it comes to carrying out their duties.

“I have to be very transparent here. My dad and mum are green colour, but people don’t know what colour I am, even my parents don’t know, that is my right. “When it comes to investigation, I’m professional, I’m colour-blind,” he added.

On Obama’s Nominee for Presidency of The World Bank

March 29, 2012

Project Syndicate: Sachs on Obama’s World Bank President Nominee

On Obama’s Nominee for Presidency of The World Bank

by Jeffrey D. Sachs (03-27-12)

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Professor at Columbia University, Director of its Earth Institute, and a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. His work focuses on economic development and international aid, when he was Director of the UN Millennium Project from 2002 to 2006. His books include The End of Poverty and Common Wealth.

Last month, I called for the World Bank to be led by a global development leader rather than a banker or political insider. “The Bank needs an accomplished professional who is ready to tackle the great challenges of sustainable development from day one,” I wrote. Now that US President Barack Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim (Ph.D.) for the post, the world will get just that: a superb development leader.

Obama has shown real leadership with this appointment. He has put development at the forefront, saying explicitly, “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”

Kim’s appointment is a breakthrough for the World Bank, which I hope will extend to other global institutions as well. Until now, the United States had been given a kind of carte blanche to nominate anyone it wanted to the World Bank presidency. That is how the Bank ended up with several inappropriate leaders, including several bankers and political insiders who lacked the knowledge and interest to lead the fight against poverty.

In order to break this tradition, and to underscore the critical importance of putting a development leader in charge of the Bank, I entered the campaign myself, and I was deeply honored by the public support that I received from a dozen countries, and by the private support of many more. Kim’s nomination was a win for all, and I was delighted to withdraw my candidacy to back him.

Kim is one of the world’s great leaders in public health. He has worked with another great public-health leader, Paul Farmer, to pioneer the extension of treatment for AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases to the world’s poorest people. More recently, he has been President of Dartmouth College, a leading American university. He therefore combines professional expertise, global experience, and considerable management know-how – all perfect credentials for the World Bank presidency.

I have worked closely with Kim over the years. He is a visionary, seeing the possibility of providing care where none is yet available. He is bold, ready to take on great challenges. And he is utterly systematic in his thinking, designing new protocols and delivery systems for low-income communities. He led the effort by the World Health Organization to scale up AIDS treatment for people in low-income countries, and he did an exemplary job.

The US appointment is not the end of the story. The World Bank’s 25 Executive Directors, representing 187 member countries, must now confirm the choice from among three nominees. He faces a challenge from Nigeria’s esteemed Finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Colombia’s former Finance Minister, José Antonio Ocampo. Yet Kim is the overwhelming favorite to get the position, especially given his stellar global record of accomplishment.

The past month has brought other reminders of why the Bank counts so much, and why I emphasized the urgent need to professionalize its leadership. Tragically, the government of Mali was overthrown in a military coup. Ironically, an election was scheduled for this spring, so the country was to have a new government soon.

I link the coup and the World Bank for the following reason: Mali is yet another example of a country where extreme poverty, hunger, disease, drought, and famine cause political instability and violence.

I know the country well. Indeed, the Earth Institute (which I direct) has a large office in Mali. Several years ago, Mali’s government appealed to me for help to fight the country’s worsening poverty. I tried to rally global support for Mali, but the Bank and others barely responded. They did not see the dangers that were so evident to all of us working in villages around the country.

Of course, poverty is not the only cause of Mali’s instability. Ethnic divisions, the extensive market in weapons, spillovers from Libya’s violence, and other factors have played a large role. But, around the world, poverty is the basic condition that accelerates and intensifies violence.

This year’s drought made a bad situation in Mali much worse. I have been saying and writing for years that the dry land regions stretching West to East – from Senegal to Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – are a growing tinder box, where climate change, drought, hunger, and population growth are creating ever greater instability.

That instability erupts into war with terrifying frequency. As a development specialist working on the ground in the dry lands, I know that no military solution can stabilize this vast region as long as people remain hungry, face famines, lack water, and are without livelihoods and hope. Sustainable development is the only path to sustainable peace.

The US government is finally waking up to this new and frightening reality. An assessment by America’s intelligence agencies, released in February, argues that, “during the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to US national security interests.”

Of course, not only US security is at stake; so are global security and the survival and well-being of vast numbers of people. And there is no need to wait for the coming 10 years: the grim reality predicted in the report is already with us.

All of this underscores the importance of the World Bank and Kim’s role at the helm. The Bank can be where the world convenes to address the dire, yet solvable, problems of sustainable development, bringing together governments, scientists, scholars, civil-society organizations, and the public to advance that great cause. This is a global imperative, and we can all contribute to fulfilling it by ensuring that the World Bank is an institution truly for the world, led with expertise and integrity. Kim’s nomination is a tremendous step toward that goal.

‘This is the Communist’s Daughter!’

March 29, 2012

Nuraina Samad Recalls: ‘This is the Communist’s Daughter!’

by Aidila Razak@

“It was very early, about 2a.m. I was sleeping and we heard a rapping on the gate,” said veteran journalist Nuraina Samad, looking into a distance, as if returning to her 20-year-old college girl self, asleep and safe in her parents’ home.

Her older brother went out to investigate and found men saying they were from the police Special Branch, demanding to be let in and who later ransacked their father’s room.

“I remember seeing one of them pulling out a book by Pearl S Buck. I remember thinking ‘Why is he picking that book?’” said the camera-shy New Straits Times Managing Editor.

NONEAt the end of two hours – “I remember it being a long time” – the men said they were taking her father, A Samad Ismail, then deputy editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times, away under the Internal Security Act.

It would be about two months before she saw her father again. But this time, only on television, on the 13th floor of the Mass Communications wing at the then Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM, now UiTM), in a room where she was supposed to have a night lecture.

“Inilah manusia bernama Samad” (This is the man called Samad) The gall! I was so angry that they were treating Bapak like that. And when my father spoke… he didn’t usually speak like that,” Nuraina said.

It was one of two televised confessions that Samad would be forced to make during his five years under the ISA.

Nuraina has since realised that her father put on a different accent to “put a number” on his interrogators and to let his loved ones, whom he was not allowed to meet, know that it was all a show.

Taunts and tears

But recalling that day in her blog, which she began penning in 2007 to sort out hidden memories spilling out “like ribbons”, Nuraina wrote that she stormed out of the lecture room, incensed with then Home Affairs Minister Ghazalie Shafie.

In the same post, she would recall the day she was called an anak komunis (communist’s daughter) by a stranger on campus, and how she gave chase, wanting to sock the person who had taunted her in the face.

“Would they be calling Lalin and Nina that too? Azah and Kamal?” she wrote in the post, recalling how protective she was of her younger siblings.

Nina, the youngest of the lot at only six at the time, too, was a victim of such taunts.“She was in Standard One… She took the school bus and in the bus somebody said, “Ini anak komunis!” (This the communist’s daughter!) and she almost punched that boy.

“She was crying. So my mother took her out of the bus and started sending her to school by car. My mother told her it’s okay. I always believe this is how one should explain (things) to children: ‘Some kids are just not nice’,” she said.

“Normal on the outside”, Nuraina vented out in her own ways, writing term papers advocating the repeal of the ISA because it could be abused by politicians, believing that her father’s “set up” was evidence of such abuse.

“They said he was a mastermind. His two friends were arrested in Singapore and named him as a mastermind. Wow, he must have been some sort of a mastermind.To cut the story short, it was a lot of bull. (Then Singapore prime minister) Lee Kuan Yew, well, now I can say he was behind it. I can say that Ghazalie Shafie (left) was behind it.It was connected to the Malaysian political intrigue… I can tell you it was set up,” she said.

Nuraina, who started working for the NST when her father was in detention, was so angry with Ghazalie, also known as King Ghaz, that she never covered any event where the minister was present.

“I told my bosses, ‘Don’t send me to any of his assignments because I could do some criminal thing.’ I don’t know if they really believed me, but maybe they thought I was so angry that I might,” she said.

But that was as far as Nuraina would go in describing her hatred for King Ghaz, out of respect for the dead. He died in 2010, two years after Samad.

Letter to the PM

According to an obituary written for Samad by his contemporary Lim Kean Chye, the two friends were Singapore’s Berita Harian editor Hussein Jaiddin and the daily’s reporter Azmi Mahmud.

The duo were arrested in Singapore in June 1976 and confessed to being part of a communist plot to undermine the governments of Singapore and Malaysia, and had implicated Samad. Lim also wrote that Samad’s detention was linked to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister, sidelining then DPM hopeful Ghazalie, who held the powerful post of Home Minister and sought to use the ISA arrests to undermine his key rival.

It would be DPM Mahathir who signed the letter allowing Nuraina and her family to visit their father at the Jalan Bandar Police Station, months after his arrest. The meetings took place every Tuesday after that.

Mahathir had responded to a “heartfelt” letter written by family friend and laureate Usman Awang (“we called him Pak Cik Tongkat”) requesting that the family be allowed to meet Samad. It was addressed to then prime minister Hussein Onn.

NONESamad (far left) was not held at the Kamunting detention camp but at a house, the location of which he never disclosed to his children, even after his release.

“When we saw the letter we thought, ‘That’s it. If we still can’t see Bapak after this, they are really cold hearted.’ The letter was so touching, in Pak Cik Tongkat’s own way. He was like a father to us,” Nuraina said.

Samad’s friends and neighbours in Section 16 of Petaling Jaya, people like Syed Hussein al-Attas and Melan Abdullah, became the family’s support group. Unlike today, she said, families of those held under the ISA then had no support from lawyers or civil society, and were mostly left to their own resources.

“The situation was such that nobody dared (to do anything). There were no likes of Ambiga (Sreenevasan) or Haris (Ibrahim)… or Malik Imtiaz. There were no advocates to support us. People are luckier now. If they were arrested under the ISA, the whole country would back them up. You could see that in 2006,” she said.

Learning to forgive

So “fatalistic” was the mood of the family upon Samad’s arrest under the ISA that Nuraina said there was even a time when she thought her father would be locked up forever. It was her mother, Hamidah Hassan – who was at one time the face behind Berita Harian‘s long-running agony aunt column Cik Sri Siantan – who kept the family grounded.

“My sisters were working. If they weren’t, I cannot imagine what my mother would have gone through.My father’s EPF could barely pay for the house… Journalists are terrible financial managers. We realised then that my father’s financial accounts were in a mess,” she said.

Looking back, Nuraina said she could not imagine how her mother, who had stood by her father when he was incarcerated, could have survived the experience.

NONEHer mother did not move for a long while after her father was taken away but when she did, she told her children that their father would be home soon.

“When you are young, you don’t see. She’s the mother, she’s supposed to be strong. Now you wonder how she could have done all that, gone through all that,” Nuraina said.

While she and her siblings coped through art, music and dance – Nuraina is a trained dancer – it was their mother who taught them the power of forgiveness.

“It’s just like as we go through life and she would talk about good things. This happens, but let’s not suffer. Believe that they made a mistake, my mother would say,” she said.

Hamidah would tell her children to believe that those who were wronged would be “saved by God” and those who did wrong will suffer more.

“It wasn’t about hate, hate, hate and anger. No. Or else we would have gone crazy.We were so young and there was still time to teach us about other things that we could hold on to,” Nuraina added.

Siapa dikira Autawan?

March 29, 2012

Salam Dari Sdr. Subky Latif: Siapa dikira Autawan?

Berkatalah Perdana Menteri Najib, pembangkang umumnya auta dan menyatakan fakta.Untuk berkata, isu-isu tertentu adalah auta, ia mungkin betul atau ia mungkin fakta. Tetapi kalau semuanya auta ia adalah satu auta yang nyata.

Najib dan UMNO mulai sekarang kena buktikan apa saja yang pembangkang timbulkan ada auta. Contohnya tuduhan kerajaan Najib menggunakan firma perunding APCO, sebuah syarikat milik Yahudi Amerika adalah auta. Adakah auta APCO tiada apa-apa urusan dan peranan di Israel?

Adakah auta kerajaan Malaysia membayar puluhan juta kepada APCO untuk mempromosikan Malaysia di luar negara?

Rafizi dari bahagian strategi PKR mendedahkan bahawa suami Shahrizat Jalil menggunakan sebahagian duit pinjaman RM250 dari kerajaan membeli dua kondo mewah. Adakah dakwaannya auta? Kalau auta mengapa pula antara dakwaan yang dihadapkan kepada suami Shahrizat ialah pembelian kondo itu?

Sebelum suami itu didakwa, boleh dianggap pendedahan Rafizi itu auta. Tetapi sesudah dia didakwa, adakah Jabatan Peguam Negara mendakwa sesuatu yang auta.

Suami Shahrizat belum didapati bersalah. Tetapi bolehkah dakwaannya yang berpunca dari pendedahan pembangkang adalah satu auta? Bijakkah Perdana Menteri ia juga satu auta?

Wajarlah Najib tampil menyatakan apa antara pendedahan kompeni lembu itu bukan fakta, melainkan semuanya auta.

Adakah cincin bernilai RM24 juta yang dihantar melalui kastam kepada isteri Perdana Menteri satu auta? Mungkin harganya itu auta. Tetapi faktanya berapa? Apa pun berita dari sumber Najib cincin itu sudah dibawa keluar negara. Ertinya cincin itu dihantar kepada Datin Seri Rosmah bukan auta.

Ada pun Rosmah dilaporkan membeli pakaian ratus ribu di Australia. Kalau juga auta ia bukan berpunca dari pembangkang. Ceritanya dipetik dari apa yang dilaporkan oleh media Australia. Media itulah yang memulakan auta itu.

Isu pembunuhan nyonya Mongolia bernama Altantuya. Adakah ia isu auta? Adakah nyonya itu tidak dibunuh dan adakah mayatnya tidak pernah diletupkan di Selangor?

Kes itu sudah dibicarakan dan sudah pun ada keputusan mahkamah. Ia adalah fakta dan bukan auta. Itu pun auta juga.

Mungkin ada cerita tentang nyonya dan kaitannya dengan Perdana Menteri Najib ada unsur auta. Tetapi Najib wajar terangkan yang mana dalam cerita itu yang auta  dan yang mana pakta? Kes nyonya itu dan Najib difailkan di Paris. Adakah kes itu satu auta atau betul kes itu ada di mahkamah Paris?

Kemudian ada pula dakwaan bahawa syarikat Malaysia mengaut untung atas pembelian kapal selam dari Perancis dan pesawat pejuang Sukoi Rusia sebesar setengah bilion. Angka komisyen itu mungkin auta tetapi adakah mengambil untung itu auta? Jumlah yang tidak auta berapa?

Anak perempuan Najib bertunang tahun lalu diadakan di Hotel Shangri La. Perbelanjaannya sekitar setengah juta. Boleh dihujah ia dilunaskan oleh Najib atau kerajaan. Tetapi faktanya tuntutan dibuat hotel terhadap Jabatan Perdana Menteri. Pembangkang hanya membangkitkan perkara itu.

Jabatan Perdana Menteri menafikan ia dibiayai kerajaan. Apa bukti penafikan itu bukan auta? Dan yang sah bukan auta kosnya hampir setengah juta. JPM tidak pernah menafikannya.

Najib bercakap di Parlimen untuk memansuhkan ISA. Tetapi ISA masih berkuat kuasa. Tiada apa-apa tindakan untuk memansuhkannya. Tidakkah ia auta? Selagi akta itu begitu, Najib dikira meauta Parlimen. Kata orang Terengganu ia lebong.

Sehingga ini orang terasa auta terbesar ialah Najib. Diperkenalkannya slogan Rakyat Didahulukan. Dengan harga cincin Rosmah dan harga pakaian diberi di Australia slogan Rakyat Didahulukan adalah auta saja.

Tuduhan pembangkang auta payah diterima tetapi Najib boleh dikira seorang autawan. —

Myanmar casts spotlight on neighbours

March 28,2012

Myanmar casts spotlight on neighbours

by Yap Mun Ching

ON several occasions since 1997, the original six member states of ASEAN (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines) have had to face unpleasant criticisms over their decision to widen the grouping to include the four remaining Southeast Asian states.

Most problematic was the membership of Myanmar which brought about accusations that the association condoned the former ruling junta’s harsh treatment of the civilian opposition as well as the widespread rights violations that took place across conflict areas in the country’s minority areas.

Two pieces of news this month brought about a change in the balance of this equation. In early March, Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to make her campaign speech on state-controlled media channels. Under sweeping political changes, Myanmar’s new Constitution allows all contesting political parties 15-minute slots on television and radio.

To further burnish its reform pledge, the government invited observers from ASEAN, the EU and the US to monitor its upcoming April 1 by-elections which will see Suu Kyi contest in a Yangon area seat.

These reforms suddenly put to shame not a few of the ASEAN members states which only until recently felt compelled to criticise Myanmar for the treatment of its dissidents. Although the new freedoms in Myanmar remain tightly framed (candidates are allowed to speak of their campaign agenda but not criticise the previous military government), the impact was powerful when Suu Kyi appeared on national TV speaking of the importance of media freedom and calling for a reform of the judicial system to ensure that it is independent and just.

For the first time since Myanmar’s turbulent post-independence period, developments in the country cast the spotlight on its neighbours for their own weak guarantees of democratic freedoms.

Other than Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, no other ASEAN country provides channels for legitimate opposition parties to broadcast campaign speeches on national television. Rather, public funded media have become not channels for the information of the electorate but tools serving the interests of the incumbents. Consequently, the integrity of the political systems of all ASEAN countries are compromised to differing degrees because of the unequal access of political parties to the media as well as the lack of freedoms for media organisations to practise unbiased journalism.

Myanmar’s openness to accepting foreign election monitors also focuses attention on the fact that an election can only be a true reflection of the people’s vote as long as fairness prevails.

Elections must not only be free of violence but independent institutions must be available to safeguard the integrity of the system. In Myanmar’s case, the presence of foreign monitors will address its weak institutional capacities and enable confidence building with the international community.

As for ASEAN, Myanmar’s invitation for regional observers to be present during the upcoming by-election cannot but highlight the irony of ASEAN observers inspecting how others conduct elections when polls in their own countries barely stand up to scrutiny. Election violence still occurs in Cambodia and Thailand while allegations of gerrymandering, vote-buying and/or blatant cheating are widespread in other countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Come April 1, it would do well for ASEAN representatives tasked to “observe” the polls in Myanmar to also pick up some good practices that can be implemented in their own countries.

Mun Ching enjoys traveling off the beaten path to discover the grittier but more revealing parts of the region we call home. Comments:

Academic Space in the Fifth Estate

March 28, 2012

Academic Space in the Fifth Estate

by M. Sidek Hassan (03-24-12)@

Universities and academics must take advantage of this new and exciting challenge and opportunity to prove their intellectual prowess.

MY objective today is to fire a conversation, a debate even, on the role of academia in influencing opinion, shaping thinking, growing minds. And if the social media is increasingly popular and impacting the lives of our young, is there a place for academia in this space? And if there is that space, can it be considered the Fifth Estate?

Let’s take a step back and appreciate the First, Second, Third and Fourth Estates. There is general acceptance as to these four estates, namely the clergy, First Estate, the nobility, Second Estate, the proletariat, Third Estate, and the print media, Fourth Estate.

Voicing out: Are members of the academia a part of the Fifth Estate? Yes, if one agrees that their role goes beyond providing checks and balances. Yes, if their role involves shaping thought and character.

But whatever the definition, the point to note is that this was a system of classifying the political reality of the time, well before democracy existed as a fundamental system of political belief.

Recall the French Revolution, the uprising of the oppressed, which gave rise eventually to the Fourth Estate which is largely a response to the need to provide checks and balance to the other three estates.

This Fourth Estate, the print media, has today evolved into the mainstream media. It was first conceived as the people’s conscience, giving voice to the marginalised.

Whereas in years past the print media provided the outlet for the masses, today, people, especially the young, find empowerment in Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media. So is this the Fifth Estate?

There is no one definition for the Fifth Estate. However, there is growing consensus that the alternative media, the folks who blog and are on Facebook and Twitter comprise the Fifth Estate.

Is our PM then part of the Fifth Estate? He has Facebook and he tweets. Many of us do that too. Can civil servants be part of the Fifth Estate?

The Fifth Estate’s role is essentially to provide another avenue for the voices to be heard, to provide another point of view. It is not so much about the “social media” per se but about the fact that people are using and accessing this medium to be heard and to hear others’ views.

They want to be able to tell you things that the Fourth Estate supposedly won’t report and share information they claim they cannot push through there.

Inevitably, the active participants in the digital media are the young, your Generation Y folks, and perhaps those who claim to have become disillusioned with the other Estates.

Social media and the digital network have the ability to catalyse another revolution of sorts, one that has gone down in the idiom as the Arab Spring. This is the power of the digital revolution, pun intended!

This Fifth Estate is driven by technology. They have the power to influence, to shape how people think, how they learn and how they glean knowledge, just with their key strokes. However, the digital network can wield as much good as harm.

So, where does this leave the academia? Can we regard academia as the Fifth Estate? Or are members of the academia a part of the Fifth Estate?

Yes, they are part of the Fifth Estate if one agrees that their role goes beyond providing checks and balances. Yes, if their role involves shaping thought and character. And, focusing on the greater good.

The following prerequisites for the academic fraternity to claim a Fifth Estate status:

  •  YOU must believe that yours is a noble profession and that you are in it out of conviction and choice. You must be an academic because you have the skills, knowledge and expertise. You are in this field because you are convinced that you can make a difference in the lives of the people you teach; that you want to be involved. Make yours the profession of choice!
  • YOU must believe that yours is a profession of immense power and influence. You have the power to shape minds, thought and character. You believe that education shapes and empowers the human intellect and spirit.

Yes, yours is the challenge of meeting differing expectations. One group demands that universities and institutions of higher learning produce graduates who are work-place ready.

Then, there is the other group that feels the university is the place for exploring new knowledge, for research and experiments in ideas and thoughts.A university education is distinct from a vocational or technical institution. It serves to provide students with broader education, that you teach them to think – think critically, think strategically. Get this right, and employability will follow.

Universities are not just places where someone goes for a degree and also are more than just places where people engaged in “research”.

So, to be a force in the Fifth Estate, Malaysian universities must reclaim their intellectual leadership. Use your expertise, and influence the discourse in whichever or whatever sphere.

The Fifth Estate presents you with new and exciting challenge and opportunity to prove your intellectual prowess.

  • YOU must believe that in the course of your work, you can give voice to the marginalised. In this space, you re-assert that all-important relationship between the university and society. Your research should guide the conversations on topics concerning society and the minorities with no one to speak for them.

More important than that, is your ability to propose solutions, credible solutions because they would be borne out of your research and experience.

The message is that your work contributes to the larger good. Use the technology available to you to convince, influence and expand your reach.

You must use your expertise to differentiate yourself from the citizen journalists in the blogosphere. Many bloggers advocate the same things we dislike in the Fourth Estate. They are often biased and tend to take extreme positions, regardless of the facts.

Academics on the other hand are accused of being detached from the real world; that you live in your ivory tower. While the bloggers are said to politicise issues, academics are accused of being theoretical.

The academic fraternity’s strength is in the ability to report based on research. You have the training to enable you to be objective and the intellectual tools to scan the environment, and provide different perspectives so essential for making informed decisions.

More importantly, you have the ability to impart that expertise to your charges and start a virtuous cycle of intellectual discourse that contributes ideas for society’s betterment.

  • FOCUS on the people, not on the technology. This is what sets you apart from the other folks who claim the Fifth Estate. For them, it is Facebook, Twitter and their blogs.

More often than not, these netizens just want to get their point of view out there without much thought about the consequences or impact on others’ lives.

But you have the advantage of knowing how to build relationships. You are trained to analyse, to teach, to communicate. This is about extending your reach beyond your classroom.

Yes, there is a place for academia in the Fifth Estate. However, I want to push the unconventional point that the Fifth Estate does not belong exclusively to any particular group.It includes anyone who can listen and give space to the otherwise, marginalised. Such that even Government and government officials can be part of it!

For in the final analysis, what the Fifth Estate has to do is to influence people and for the right reasons; in what is right, what is true and what is good. For is it not said somewhere that the voice of the people is the voice of God!

This lecture was delivered by Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, Chief Secretary to the Government, at the Chief Secretary Annual Lecture Series organised by the Razak School of Government, on Tuesday, 20th March 2012.

Satisfied Ku Li stays in UMNO

March 28, 2012

Satisfied Ku Li stays in UMNO


Despite the differences of views with UMNO leadership, UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah says he will not follow the steps of his colleague Kadir Sheikh Fadzir to quit the party.

tengku razaleigh ku li interview 190309 04In an exclusive interview with Chinese Oriental Daily News published today, the Gua Musang MP (right) maintained his loyalty to UMMO and expressed satisfaction with his current status in the party.

“I’m still free to do things and say things I want in UMNO. Although some of my statements will make some people in UMNO unhappy, that does not mean I should leave UMNO,” he was quoted as saying.

He likened the situation to the relationship of two brothers in a family who sometimes quarreled with each other but that does not mean they must disown each other.

The former Finance Minister is currently the President of Amanah Merdeka, a NGO founded by him together with other current and former BN leaders.

Last week Kadir Sheikh, one of Amanah Deputy Presidents and also a former UMNO minister, resigned from the party that he had joined for 56 years. This followed attacks by UMNO leaders and mainstream media over his allegations that UMNO leaders were involved in vote-buying.

On the role of Amanah, Razaleigh said the public perception that it will serve as a third force in the Malaysian political landscape was a misunderstanding because he has no intention to fight BN or UMNO through Amanah.

He said the NGO was initiated by Kadir Sheikh (right) and others, and he reluctantly accepted the Presidency after they aggressively lobbied him. Describing his presidency as a figure head, Razaleigh said he is ready to vacate the post at any time if there was a more suitable candidate. The group, however, is not as active as presumed by some quarters, he said.

“I attended the launching but after that we did not do much. The major reason is we are too busy.”

Although most of the members want Amanah to be registered as a political party and play a significant role in the next general election, Razaleigh held a contrary stand: “I’m one of the minority who opposed it because I”m already a UMNO member. I can’t be a member of two political parties.”

“Some people think I should quit UMNO but I have been active in UMNO for almost 50 years,” he continued, reiterating that he has no intention at all to leave the ruling party.

Dual-party membership disallowed

He clarified that he and his colleagues in UMNO did not quit the party in 1987, instead they had no choice but to form Semangat 46 because they were not allowed by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to join the ‘new UMNO’ founded by Mahathir when the original UMNO was declared illegal by the court.

After the 1995 general election, Mahathir requested that they return to Umno, hence they dissolved Semangat 46, he said. Asked why Semangat 46 was dissolved, Razaleigh simply answered that it was because a person is not allowed to have dual-party membership. There was neither any promise by Mahathir nor any request by him when both factions reunited.

NONEOn the allegations that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (left) approached him and other BN parliamentarians to join Pakatan Rakyat to topple the federal government on Sept 16, 2008, Razaleigh denied it.

He said Anwar did engage him to form a new government but did not lobby him to join Pakatan.

“At that time I told him I will not follow him. I will continue to stay in UMNO and I wished him good luck. I also advised him not to be over confident because these people (BN MPs) will change their mind anytime and he may be disappointed. But Anwar replied that he will continue to push for it. Looking back now, I was right. The plan was indeed hard to be realised,” Razaleight revealed.

On Anwar’s ability, Razaleigh said he is an outstanding politician who can unite all the three opposition parties but his governing capacity has yet to be tested.

Contrary to the popular perception, Razaleigh commented that the Achilles’ heel of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration is the concept of 1Malaysia.“Many people will ask if you really believe in 1Malaysia, why there are still so many racial issues?”

Although Najib (left) is a hardworking politician, Razaleigh noted, one of his biggest challenges is to address the problems inherited from the previous administration, including discriminatory policies, corruption and substandard public delivery system.

“Take the political party as an example. Some people may ask, how can you promote 1Malaysia when the party you lead, that is UMNO, is still a racial party?”

ISA Focus: Torture, Suicide and 47 Days of Hunger

March 27, 2012

My Friend and Publisher, Chong recounts his ISA Days: Torture, Suicide and 47 Days of Hunger

by Aidila Razak@

ISA FOCUS “Outside, eight years seems like a very long time. Inside, you’re looking at the same wall, the same tree. It doesn’t feel that long,” said the man who was detained at the age of 20 for allegedly being pro-communist.

In fact, Chong Tong Sin, who was first held at the Muar detention camp prior to the building of the Kamunting Camp, recalled his initial ISA days as being “like in a university”, with so many make-shift classes and new people coming in that there was “not enough time”.

chong tong sin former ISA detainee 230312The move to Kamunting in 1973 also promised good things. Vast and new, the “200 to 300” detainees who were moved from Muar to the Perak facility felt ‘freer’ there, until a detainee committed suicide.

“There was something wrong with his ear. He would hear a sound, day and night. It would be quiet outside, but he’ll still hear the sound. We felt he was tortured so bad that he finally had to commit suicide,” Chong said.

Speaking between drags of a cigarette in an interview last week, Chong said those who were heavily involved in underground activities were severely tortured during interrogation.

“Normal torture is to put you in an air-conditioned room and take off your clothes. Or they put a barrel over your head and hit the barrel. For 24 to 36 hours… (the interrogators) take turns, but (the detainees) sit there non-stop. (They) can’t sleep or anything. Assault is a given. But I was never tortured, maybe because I didn’t know anything,” he said.

Hunger strike

The suicide triggered a demonstration in the camp, with detainees demanding better treatment. News of the demonstration spread to the detention camp in Batu Gajah, where Chong said detainees were also ill-treated.

It was then that the Batu Gajah detainees began a hunger strike. “When we (in Kamunting) heard about that, and we had no choice. We had to support them. So we started a hunger strike too,” said the 64-year-old.

To deal with this, wardens moved all Kamunting detainees to Batu Gajah, which was deemed an easier facility to control as there were cells.

“When we got to the Batu Gajah camp, everybody was beaten up. There was a lane through which we had to walk to get to the cells.

“The prison guards and Special Branch men beat us up as we walked through the lane. Some people collapsed, but they continued to beat them up until they entered the cells,” he recalled.

They would be locked up in the cells in Batu Gajah for 36 days in all – safe for visits from doctors to check on their health. The Batu Gajah detainees kept their hunger strike for 47 days.

“Even if they opened the door, we wouldn’t have been able to leave the cell. We were so weak,” he said, adding that the wardens would call on them, every day, to give up their strike and to eat.

Food that was pushed through, into the cells, was pushed back, for any sign of defeat would mean going back to Kamunting. Some detainees, though, did give in, and were packed up back to Kamunting. Chong prevailed.

During the 47 days, families of the detainees also held demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur to apply pressure on the government and several demands for better treatment of the detainees were also made.

A social activist still

When the strike ended, Chong remained in Batu Gajah and was released in 1978. During the eight years, Chong was also taken out of detention to serve several months in jail for illegal assembly.

Like other detainees, he clashed with wardens when they tried to handcuff him to take him to court for the hearings, as well as for visits to the hospital or dentist.

“We were not criminals, so to us it is wrong to handcuff us. They will say, “No handcuff, no leaving the camp…”.

It was the warden’s duty to send the detainees for their court hearings. “We refused to put on the cuffs, so what do they do? They grab hold of us and we fight. We get whacked on the head. It was normal. But finally, we’ll give in and go,” he said.

When Chong was released in 1978, he learned that the little boy who was his neighbour was now old enough to drive.“You become kind of spaced out… After a year, you’ll slowly adjust… For me, it wasn’t so difficult. I got out and did work,” he said.

Nine years after his release, he joined Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and found himself demonstrating against the arrest of more than 100 people under ISA in Operation Lallang.

Now a book publisher, Chong, who believes he is still under surveillance, has little regret about his time in ISA – a period of history his 19-year-old only child is “not too interested” to learn about.

“I am not highly educated. If I wasn’t detained under ISA, I could have had more children, or maybe I would have ended up as a drug addict. To me, if they catch me, they catch me. When I get out, I’ll continue doing what I did,” Chong added, matter-of-factly.

China’s Stability Gambit

March 27, 2012

Project Syndicate: Stephen Roach

China’s Stability Gambit

by Stephen Roach (03-26-12)

The first principle that I learned when I started focusing on China in the late 1990’s is that nothing is more important to the Chinese than stability – whether economic, social, or political. Given centuries of turmoil in China, today’s leaders will do everything in their power to preserve stability.

Whenever I have doubts about a potential Chinese policy shift, I examine the options through the stability lens. It has worked like a charm.Stability was on everyone’s mind at the annual China Development Forum (CDF) held March 17-20 in Beijing.

Hosted by Premier Wen Jiabao, with many ministers of the State Council in attendance, the CDF is China’s most important international conference.

Yet, literally two days before this year’s CDF began, the controversial Bo Xilai (right) was removed as Party Secretary of Chongqing. As a strong candidate to join the Standing Committee of the Politburo, China’s inner circle of leadership, Bo’s sudden demise was stunning. There was a palpable buzz in the air as we convened in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

The formal sessions played out predictably, placing great emphasis on the coming structural transformation of China’s growth model – a colossal shift from the all-powerful export- and investment-led growth of the past 32 years to a more consumer-led dynamic. There is now broad consensus among China’s senior leadership in favor of such a rebalancing. As one participant put it, “The debate has shifted from what to do to how and when to do it.”

Many of the other themes flowed from this general conclusion. A shift to services-led growth and an innovations-based development strategy were highlighted. At the same time, there was considerable concern about the recent resurgence of state-owned enterprises, which has tilted the distribution of national income from labor to capital – a major impediment to China’s pro-consumption rebalancing. The World Bank and the China Development Research Center (the CDF’s host) had just released a comprehensive report that addressed many aspects of this critical issue.

But the CDF’s formal proceedings never even hinted at the elephant in the chambers of Diaoyutai. There was no mention of Bo Xilai and what his dismissal meant for China’s domestic politics in this critical year of leadership transition. While it is easy to get caught up in the swirling tales of palace intrigue that have followed, I suspect that Bo’s removal holds a far deeper meaning.

Chinese officials faced the risk of a dangerous interplay of political and economic instability. Hit by a second external demand shock in three years – first, America’s subprime crisis, and now Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis – any outbreak of internal political instability would pose a far greater threat than might otherwise be the case.

Bo personified that risk. He embodied the so-called “Chongqing model” of state capitalism that has been ascendant in China in recent years – government-directed urbanization and economic development that concentrates power in the hands of regional leaders and state-owned enterprises.

I spent some time in Chongqing – a vast metropolitan area of more than 34 million people – last summer. I left astonished at the scope of the city’s plans. Orchestrated by Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan, the principal architect of the spectacular Pudong development project in Shanghai, the goal is to transform the Liangjiang area of Chongqing into China’s first inland urban development zone. That would put Liangjiang on a par with coastal China’s two earlier showcase projects – Pudong and the Binhai area of Tianjin.

Yet this is the same state-dominated development model that came under heavy criticism at this year’s CDF – and that stands in sharp contrast to the more market-driven alternative that has gained broad consensus among senior Chinese leaders. In other words, Bo was perceived not only as a threat to political stability, but also as the leading representative of a model of economic instability. By dismissing Bo so abruptly, the central government has, in effect, underscored its unwavering commitment to stability.

This fits with yet another curious piece of the Chinese puzzle. Five years ago, Wen famously warned of a Chinese economy that was in danger of becoming “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” I have repeatedly stressed the critical role that Wen’s “Four Uns” have played in shaping the pro-consumption strategy of the “Next China.” Wen’s critique paved the way for China to face its rebalancing imperatives head on.

But, in their formal remarks to the CDF this year, China’s senior leadership – including Premier-designate Li Keqiang (left) – dropped all explicit references to the risks of an “unstable” Chinese economy. In short, the Four Uns have now become three.

In China, such changes in language are no accident. The most likely interpretation is that those at the top no longer want to concede anything when it comes to stability. By addressing economic instability through pro-consumption rebalancing, and political instability by removing Bo, stability has gone from a risk factor to an ironclad commitment.

There can be no mistaking the Chinese leadership’s core message nowadays. They are the first to concede that their growth and development strategy is at a critical juncture. They worry that the “reforms and opening up” of Deng Xiaoping are in danger of losing momentum. By addressing the interplay between economic and political risks to stability, the government is clearing the way for the next phase of China’s extraordinary development. I would not advise betting against their commitment to achieving that goal.

Whistleblowers: Shining Knights of the 21st century

March 27, 2012

Whistleblowers: Shining Knights of the 21st century

by M Saravanabavan(03-26-12)@

Modern day corruption is endemic in character and contributes to poverty. It is a plague that affects all levels and aspects of society from business and politics through to government. It is damaging to a country because decisions are taken not for the public benefit but to serve private interests. The recent Copgate scandal is a stunning example of this phenomenon.

It is now reported that a judicial tribunal will not be set up to investigate the parties involved in the Copgate scandal due to insufficient evidence adduced. This is notwithstanding the fact that several Police Officers directly connected with the Copgate scandal were willing to blow the whistle against the Attorney-General and former Inspector General of Police for interfering with the investigation of one Goh Cheng Poh aka Tengku Goh, the Johor Kingpin, in 2007.

The problem with corruption is that it is a hidden activity and the major difficulty when dealing with a hidden crime like corruption is its detection. Exposing cases of corruption using traditional investigative techniques can take years and a highly sophisticated team of experts with substantial resources. Even after spending a considerable time on investigations, it is not unusual for the prosecuting authorities to drop a case owing to lack of evidence.

Enforcement authorities therefore find investigating and the gathering of evidence extremely difficult with the result that there are hardly any prosecutions against those who engage in this activity even in developed countries. In a developing country like Malaysia which lacks the necessary expertise and resources, corrupt practices could be exposed from within an organisation by good willed informers. Investigations to a large extent will then rely on third party informers coming forward with vital information. These third party informers are often referred to as “Whistleblowers”.

If a significant number of potential Whistleblowers with inside information about the Copgate scandal step forward, the current government may be persuaded to establish an impartial body to oversee the dispensation of justice and expose the corruption inherent (if any) in the Copgate scandal.

However, there will be one particular question lingering in the minds of potential whistleblowers.  How can the law protect us?

The answer lies in the recently enacted Whistleblower Act 2010. On December 15, 2010, the Malaysian Whistleblower Act 2010 came into force. This Act is intended to be a branch of public interest dimension of disclosure. The legislation marks a great step for the protection of Whistleblowers bringing Malaysia on par with developed countries like United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada which have provided a comprehensive or very specialised legislation on whistleblower protection.

The aim of the Act is stated in its preamble that this is ‘An Act to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating the disclosure of improper conduct …’

It would appear from the preamble that prevention and conviction of corruption is the overriding public interest to justify the broad spectrum of protection afforded to the Whistleblower under this Act.

The 2010 Act defines a whistleblower as ‘any person who makes a disclosure of improper conduct to the enforcement agency…‘.What is meant by improper conduct? Improper conduct, the subject matter of the disclosure, is defined as ‘any conduct which if proved, constitutes a disciplinary offence or a criminal offence’.

The above definitions taken as whole mean whistleblowers will play an important part in exposing the various unsavory and unscrupulous acts by organisations and public bodies. Whistleblowers will help combat corruption by exposing the wrongdoings of the organisations or public bodies and protect those who are in the organisation itself, as well as the society.

The invaluable contributions by whistleblowers can be demonstrated by The Challenger space shuttle explosion (pic right of the ill-fated crew of the Challenger) that occurred in 1986. Three engineers decided to blow the whistle on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and revealed how the launch was still set to go as scheduled, even after they had expressed their concerns over the seals that connected the solid rocket booster joints on the space shuttle.

The Challenger exploded and Roger Boisjoly, one of the whistleblowers testified against NASA. In January 2001, Boisjoly was honoured as the James T Pursell Sr Distinguished Fellow in Management Ethics at Auburn University for his heroic endeavours.

Another spectacular instance of whistleblowing would be that of Enron, and its eventual collapse. Sherron S Watkins, who was the then vice president of Enron, was the whistleblower who was responsible for exposing Enron’s questionable corporate practices, and helped to bring about the collapse of Enron.

She was trying to warn her then boss and company founder, Kenneth L Lay, that the company could “implode in a wave of accounting scandals,” and her efforts fell on deaf ears just five months before Enron collapsed into bankruptcy. Indubitably, whistleblowing could have prevented all these disasters from occurring, but only if the warnings had been heeded in the first place.

There many other cases similar to the above.Cynthia Cooper, an internal auditor at WorldCom, went before the board to expose nearly US$4 billion in cover-ups. Coleen Rowley, a staff attorney at the FBI field office in Minneapolis, sent several memos to the director that proved the Bureau overlooked warnings about the 9/11 attacks and many more.

It is evident that by revealing the wrongdoings within an organisation to the public or to those who hold positions of authority, whistleblowers could ensure that these organisations be held accountable for their wrongful actions. The herculean task of discovering a wrongful action within a public body or an organisation will thus be accomplished by whistleblowing. A simple act of whistleblowing could ensure that any sort of criminal or corporate misconduct would not go unpunished.

The ambit of the 2010 Act was widened under Section 6(2). A disclosure of improper conduct can be made although the improper act has occurred before the commencement of the Act. This means that the Whistleblower Act 2010 can also apply to improper actions by public bodies or organisations before the Act has come into force as long as it will be reasonable to expose the improper conduct of the public body or organisation. In short, The Whistleblower Act could also have retrospective authority in order to achieve its stated aim.

Further, the 2010 Act also protects the whistleblower from any person or organisation seeking to harm the whistleblower for the information supplied by him. If the whistleblower suffered various detriments or harassment because of the information that he has given, the person or organisation which subjects him to such treatment may be liable under the Act for criminal penalties. This is guaranteed under Section 10(6) of the 2010 Act.

In addition to that, Section 27 of the 2010 Act also empowers the enforcement agency to order rewards to Whistleblowers. This will enhance the practical effectiveness of the 2010 Act and dramatically skews the whistleblower’s risk and reward analysis. In United States, the law promises whistleblowers 10 to 30% of penalties obtained by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for information that contributes to the recovery of at least US$1 million. Similar rewards must be offered in Malaysia so that whistleblowers will not feel that they risk so much for no tangible benefits.

These are undeniably brave new initiatives introduced by the 2010 Act to broaden the dimension of disclosure to protect the general public. The coming into force of the 2010 Act, have mandated Malaysian whistleblowers with the responsibility to come forward and extend their goodwill.

As Hazlina Shaik states in her 2009 paper “A Sad End to Whistleblowing”, the topic of whistleblowing is becoming increasingly important, and whistleblowers are slowly but surely gaining a more positive image. Before, revealing wrongdoings within an organisation or public body was considered to be in bad form, but nowadays, the very act of whistleblowing can be seen as a positive and admirable deed.

From the legal perspective, it can be safely conveyed that the law no longer ignores whistleblowers. It attempts to give them due acknowledgment and recognition. Whistle blowing and whistleblowers alike are given the respect and justice that they absolutely deserve. Honest whistleblowers will be protected for public disclosures and potential whistleblowers are reminded that someone is out there protecting and watching over them.

Therefore, if the controversy surrounding the Copgate scandal is to be dealt with in a truthful and just manner, potential Whistleblowers with inside information must courageously come forward to provide such information in the interest of our nation. Whistleblowers should speak out, without fear of reprisals, from either the organisation, public bodies, authorities or their colleagues, and as such, it is strongly urged that they should not remain silent. As the British statesman Edmund Burke dynamically expressed “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”

The writer is an advocate and solicitor


Of Corruption and Abuse of Power

March 27, 2012–Karim Raslan (03-27-12)

Of Corruption and Abuse of Power

by Karim Raslan

Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series shines a glaring light on corruption and abuse of power. Even in the most open and democratic of societies, there are forces seeking to undermine and compromise our rights.

STIEG Larsson’s three Millen­­­­­­­ni­um novels are reported to have sold over 65 million copies – that’s almost seven times the size of Sweden’s population (circa 9.3 million).

The books (as well as the inevitable film adaptations) are a global cultural phenomenon. Sadly, the novelist himself passed away in 2004, just before his central character – Lisbeth Salander, the young, moody female researcher perpetually clad in punk-rock black — captured the imagination of readers across the world.

Stieg Larsson was obsessed with the dark underbelly of Scandinavian life — the world behind the neat perfection of Ikea, Volvo and Abba.

Despite the nation’s professed social democratic and “welfare state” ideals, Larsson warned about the presence and growing influence of extreme anti-immigrant, right-wing groups.

Given last year’s appalling mass murder in Norway which left 77 dead, the novelist’s concerns seem well-placed and eerily prophetic. Indeed, the cold, calculating gunman Andres Behring Breivik who terrorised Oslo and Utoya in 2011 seems like a villain out of Larsson’s novels.

The Millennium series consists of three novels: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

As mentioned, the franchise has spawned three superb 2009 Swedish film adaptations (starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace), as well as the 2011 Academy Award-nominated Hollywood version with James Bond star Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.However, the films aren’t for family viewing, so don’t watch them with your mother.

The focus of the three novels shifts constantly between our unlikely heroine Lisbeth Salander with her distant manner and the editor/journalist, Mikael Blomkvist as he probes a rogue’s gallery of arms-dealing tycoons, murderers, money-launderers and human-traffickers, all of which leads him in turn, to Lisbeth’s tragic and brutal family history.

We follow the action across Swedish society, tracking events against the bleak, frost-bitten landscape of rural Scandinavia.

The revelations from the hero’s investigations set into motion a chain of events that dredge up Salander’s traumatic childhood and reveal links to a shadowy cabal — a “state within a state” — that shakes the very foundations of the Swedish realm.

The Millennium series highlights the inherent gender biases in even the most egalitarian of societies. Almost from birth, Salander in particular is subjected to a series of horrifying sexual, emotional and psychological abuse.

What makes it doubly worse is the way the state itself is complicit, as her enemies manipulate the provisions of the welfare state to punish and brutalise her at every turn in order to ensure their secrets remain hidden.

The Sweden Larsson paints is riddled with inconsistencies and hypocrisy – a world where neo-Nazis and other extremists appear to have free rein whilst their opponents are cowered and/or silenced.

It’s a place where lives can be destroyed if and when, unaccountable power brokers deem it necessary for “national security” demands.

As Sweden’s economy slows down and its welfare state crumbles much like the rest of Europe (there’s a risk of recession this year despite the Riksbanken’s forecast of a 0.7% growth whilst the OECD claims that its income disparities have grown four times those of the United States), we must wonder if Larsson’s nightmarish vision will take hold?

Still, I have to say here that Salander is no victim.As with many loners, she seems to possess a wizard-like ability to unlock the inner secrets of anyone’s computer almost at will, navigating a maze of protocols, codes and servers.

Indeed, she is a strong and compelling character who rises above the violence and prejudice that threatens to engulf her, avenging for her sex and holding society accountable as she metes out justice like an Internet Age Dirty Harry or some vigilante avatar.

The Millennium series shines a glaring light on corruption and abuse of power.Larsson warns us that even in the most open and democratic of societies, there are forces seeking to undermine and compromise our rights.

For Malaysians, the novels and movies must surely be eerily prophetic.How many Salanders have we already created through institutionalised neglect and abuse? How have the most vulnerable coped in our society?

The Millennium series isn’t just entertainment. The novels are a deeply moral set of lessons of the pitfalls of human nature, power and public life. We have been warned.