Islam At the Crossroads in Malaysia

February 8, 2014

Islam At the Crossroads in Malaysia

dato-din-mericanby Din Merican

I am writing this as I contemplate the fate of our country while resting after being involved in a nasty accident last week. I feel very sorry that my wife’s car, Dr Kamsiah’s black beauty, is now a total wreck and we are not sure how long the adjusters will assess the loss as a total loss or whether it has to be repaired.

I hope the insurance company and its adjusters would be kind to my wife and I by not prolonging the painful process of making an insurance claim. The positive thing from that accident was that the driver of the other car, a non-Muslim Chinese and I, a Malay Muslim, did not have a quarrel. We resolved matters in the manner that accidents are resolved. We showed care and compassion for each other to ensure that neither of us suffered grievous bodily injury. We were civil despite our different race and religion even in those tense moments. We behaved as how civil people behave. We behaved like we are one people, like true Malaysians.

Airbags from the car!

Airbags from the car!

What was heartening also was that I received an immediate message from my young friend, Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, who heard about the accident although he was away. He was so concerned to make sure that we were not injured and made prayers for us from Makkah. Apparently, he was in Jeddah for a meeting and entered Makkah to perform umrah and made doa’ (prayers) for our safety.

To Rosli, I say thank you. At my ripe age, doa from well wishers are very meaningful. Alhamdulillah, I am safe in one piece although I was pretty jolted when the airbag exploded. I pray to Allah that the driver and passengers of the other vehicle will also recover as I have.

Religion and Politics

This brings me to the topic of religion that has plagued the country in the last few months. Since 2012, the politics of religion in Malaysia has taken a worrisome development. While Malaysia has long been known as a moderate Muslim country, that perception is beginning to change and change dramatically.

Malaysia’s moderation which is also a characteristic of Malay culture has, in the past, earned us respect in many Muslims countries. It is well known that Malaysian Muslim pilgrims for Haj and Umrah are well liked because in overseas countries Malaysians are extremely polite and rarely act in a radical way, unlike the hooliganism that they now show back at home. I am sure Rosli is one of the example of a pleasant Malay pilgrim. Moderation has become our national emblem, a badge of pride that we can wear on our chest.

Islam Hadhari disappeared when Badawi resigned as Prime Minister

When Abdullah Badawi became PM, he wanted to capitalise on that moderation by conceptualising it as  Islam Hadhari. But, like all slogans, that slogan also went out of fashion and is rarely heard today. As always, Malaysian leadership is less concerned about the substance of leadership and good governance but more concerned with popularity. And that is the problem we face today with the administration of PM Najib Razak.

badawi1Ex-PM Abdullah Badawi was brought down by his own party, UMNO, as he was seen to be ineffective– sleeping on the job, as Dr Mahathir would put it. And then, enter Najib Razak as PM. Malaysians were hopeful of him. There could not be a politician with a better pedigree than Najib. He is after all the son of Tun Abdul Razak, one of the most respected of Malaysia’s Prime Ministers. However, it did not take long for Najib to show that what his father Tun Razak had built, Najib would in a short time almost destroy.

You may ask- is that a fair comment? That is a fair question. So, let us analyse briefly why I expressed what most Malaysians are already saying.

Najib came up with this slogan – Satu Malaysia (1Malaysia). But today,we, as a nation, are not at all one united people. We can’t be more divided than ever. We quarrel about almost everything, including something so flimsy as the proprietorship of the word “Allah”. Thus, it was apt that my friend Tan Sri Robert Phang had rhetorically posed – “Why are we quareling about God?” in his New Year Message. Lim Kit Siang has taken that tag line to raise the same question in his open letter to PM Najib.

Malaysia is becoming to look like a Taliban State where the religious authorities have become so intolerant of different what more dissenting views in the area of religion, religious thought or for that matter anything concerning God, as if we own God. But more worrisome is that they are wrong in the things they did, yet they did not care.

The Borders Case remains unresolved thanks to AG Gani Patail

nik-raina-and-dr-kamsiah1In 2012, JAWI raided the Borders Bookstore and seized books by Canadian author Irshad Manji titled “Allah, Liberty and Love”. When JAWI couldn’t find anyone else to charge, JAWI decided to charge the poor Malay store manager Nik Raina Nik Rashid (seen with Dr. Kamsiah). She was charged for selling a banned book at a time when it was not banned yet.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan successfully persuaded Tudung Judge Dato Zaleha Yusof to make a bold declaration that JAWI’s raid, seizure of books, and prosecution of Nik Raina were illegal. Judge Zaleha also declared that the Islamic Offences Act used to charge Nik Raina was ultra vires and unconstitutional and chided the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister in the PM’s Dept in charge of Religion for abdicating their constitutional duties in not clarifying the confusion that had disrupted the harmonious relationship in multiracial and multireligious Malaysia.

Despite the High Court ruling, the Syariah court refused to release Nik Raina. Although the law is now clarified that the Islamic Law Act used by JAWI is unconstitutional, yet A-G Gani Patail did not seem to consider it to be his duty to advise the government on what is the proper thing to do. He would rather cause a conflict of laws between civil and islamic law without regard to the disharmony it is causing amongst Malaysians.

I suppose A-G Gani Patail feels that he can survive better when there is anarchy in the country as that would make him more useful to those in the corridors of power. Otherwise, his position would be under threat from lawyer Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah, who has openly declared recently that he is ready to assume the role of Attorney-General to replace Gani Patail who is just a 3rd Class law graduate from University Malaya. That is what happens when the country is led by people of mediocrity.

The Allah Issue

Perkasa Rally on AllahThen the “Allah” issue erupted again, this time in a more virulent way. Unheard of NGOs like ISMA started to appear and condemned Marina Mahathir as a Dalang for LBGT and as anti-Islam. Thus, the line is a drawn between the Axis of Evil and the Defenders of Islam. Any muslim who spoke on the “Allah” issue in a manner not consistent with the Malaysian Standards of Islam (as if there is one!) projected by the likes of JAWI and JAIS are immediately branded as the enemies of Islam. You then see a herd of Malaysian politicians singing in chorus branding Islamic scholars like Professor Tariq Ramadan as liberal muslims. I am appalled.

Tariq Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan, author of “Islamic Law: Its Scope and Equity”Tariq Ramadan and the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, founder of Ikhwanul Muslimin. Yet, Malaysian politicians conveniently branded him as such just because he gave an impartial and objective opinion about “Allah”. I will not elaborate on this as so many people have already written on the “Allah” issue.

All I would like to add is that PM Najib showed a total lack of moral courage on this issue which is now dividing Malaysians more than ever before. When he eventually made a comment recently, it was at best disappointing. Najib had no qualms about showing that his government will not honour the 10 point agreement.

Najib showed the same lack of courage over the death and burial of Chin Peng.  My counterparts in Thailand informed me that former Thai PM Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh had attended Chin Peng’s funeral in honour of an independence fighter of the time likening Chin Peng to Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam and Che Guevara of the Cuban Revolution and yet Malaysia dishonoured its own son and the treaty that it entered with the CPM. That is how dishonourable the Najib government behaved.

PM Najib also coined the slogan- Rakyat Di Dahulukan (People First). It was a beautiful slogan to show a caring and people oriented government. To demonstrate the government’s care and concern, the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BRIM) was introduced as Najib geared up for  GE13. All kinds of asssistance and handouts were promised to bribe the Rakyat to vote for BN. Yet, immediately after winning the elections (and losing the popular votes), the Rakyat was burdened with price increases– from petrol price increase to tariff hikes in electricity, property assessments, tolls and all other kinds of tariffs. That is how PM Najib’s government betrayed the people. Rakyat didahulukan with all kinds of burdens!

Rosmah Mansor’s Opulence and Defiance

Rosmah and NajibWhen the Rakyat complained, PM Najib asked them to be thrifty, to be austere and so on, whereas all the while his domineering wife is jet-setting all over the world in a government jet, costing taxpayers to the tune of RM44 million. This did not yet take into account the numerous color Hermes and Birkin handbags (not the Shenzen or Petaling Street versions) that Rosmah Mansor is reputed to tot around costing not less than RM100 thousand each. She does not care what the Rakyat thinks about her lavish spending. Sheer defiance of public opinion.

Then, in a blatant display of grandiose and opulence, Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s son from an earlier marriage suddenly emerged in Hollywood as a big budget movie producer. The movie Wolf of Wall Street is nothing but sheer debauchery. I don’t give a hoot that it starred Leonardo Di Caprio or that it was directed by Martin Scorcesse. All I care is that there are enough stories out there in the Internet that Rosmah’s son is flaunting his very deep pockets to fund such big projects. The question on everybody’s mind is where did he get all that money? What is worse, the MACC chose not to investigate the young man.

With all these scandals surrounding his family, PM Najib has no moral authority to lecture the Rakyat about austerity when his wife and family display extreme opulence and questionable wealth.  Najib has no credibility to tell the Rakyat about how fortunate we are to be able to eat cheap kangkung when his family’s lifestyle of the rich and famous are posted all over youtube.

That is how sick the country is that leaders and those in authority cannot be trusted to take care of the Rakyat. And worst still when religion is used to rob people of their property. I read in the Malay Mail a case of the Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Batang Berjuntai conspiring with JAIS to rob a chinese company of its 26 acre land purportedly to build a mosque. I have not seen a 26-acre a mosque especially not in a kampung area like Batang Berjuntai. I became more interested when I saw that the lawyer acting for the chinese company is again Rosli Dahlan.

That makes me wonder if Rosli went to Makkah feeling guilty for acting against the religious authorities or if he was  seeking forgiveness and atonement because of all the condemnations he must be receiving for acting against the  likes of JAWI and JAIS which pretend to be the defenders and guardians of the Islamic faith. If that is why he is in Makkah, I have this to say to Rosli– don’t feel guilty. Seek justice and God will protect you.


Rosli should take it as his karma, taqdir, predestination or whatever you call it for him to be acting in such causes of justice without discriminating the race, color or religion of the oppressed party. That is what Islam is about- justice and compassion. And that’s  what our country and leadership are not. That is how sick our country is. We are at a crossroad where our professed islamic identity is made a mockery by the leadership and then aped by the Muslim mobs like PERKASA and ISMA.

Islam should be presented without any fanaticism. Without any stress on our having the only possible way and the others are lost. Moderation in all forms is a basic demand of Islam.

Islam should be presented without any fanaticism. Without any stress on our having the only possible way and the others are lost. Moderation in all forms is a basic demand of Islam.

That reminded me of the title of a book by renowned Islamic Scholar Muhammad Asad- “Islam at the Crossroads“. In case the likes of PERKASA, ISMA and their ilk are not aware, Muhammad Asad was born and raised as a Jew in Austria by the name of Leopold Weiss. So, one of Islam’s respected scholars of the recent century is actually a Jew! It was a Jew who correctly projected that Islam is at a crossroad. And I will borrow Asad’s title to say that Islam is indeed at crossroads in Malaysia. It is heading in the wrong direction because of politics of manipulation and subjugation by UMNO of Malay Muslims.

Tsunami of Price Hikes

January 2, 2014

Tsunami of Price Hikes In Malaysia Truly Asia

by Balan Moses@

Balan MosesTHE pain that many fear will envelop them from a prospective tsunami of price hikes has yet to kick in but rest assured that the inevitable will take place.

I am sorry to start the year on a pessimistic note but false optimism will get us nowhere. We, the people at large, have to discuss the matter and collectively work with the government and private sector to get us out of this veritable pickle that we find ourselves in. Malaysians are bracing for increments ranging from power rates to tolls that have crept up on us all of a sudden leaving many afraid that their slender financial resources may not be able to weather the storm.

How is it that everyone (I exaggerate, of course) is rushing, in concert it appears, to charge us more? Has fair play (and fair prices) been thrown out the window? In reality, higher charges for a myriad goods and services have been our constant companions since last year with many not really feeling the pinch due to the manner in which prices went up intermittently by a fraction.

Much like the proverbial frog in water that grew warmer gently but surely until the heat became unbearable. In truth, our ringgit buys less today than it did last year. And it appears that this will very much be the trend in the foreseeable future.

What then is the fate of the ordinary wage earner whose purchasing power is diminishing at a faster rate than the annual increase in income? Not exactly encouraging news given the warning a couple of days ago that some employers may be giving smaller bonuses and salary increments this year.

At Dataran Merdeka--Price Hikes Protest -31-12-13Price Hike Protest-December 31, 2013

And certainly not palatable information to the many retirees from the public and private sectors. Government pensioners are not exactly ecstatic every time there is an across the board hike in public sector salaries as pensions do not appear to keep pace with price hikes.

As for those who retired from the private sector, the outlook appears rather bleak as jobs become increasingly hard to come by at their age.

Some of those depending on Employees Provident Fund savings to get by fear that their money may not last them for too long with medical exigencies making their unhealthy presence felt and old age imposing its costs in so many other ways.

So where does that leave the average consumer? I think it is time that consumers organise themselves better to avoid getting a raw deal from traders at all levels.

I am not besmirching the honest traders who make reasonable profits by giving the consumer a fair price for a product or service. Not for a moment do I begrudge traders their fair profit as they too have families with all attendant costs. My beef is with profiteers who use any excuse for a better profit.

Malaysians have to identify the areas where they spend the most and seek to keep costs at reasonable levels. I use the word “reasonable” as I am cognizant of the fact that we do not live in a vacuum with international price trends directly affecting our economy.

Be that as it may, the time has come for middle Malaysia (the rich may not arguably feel the pinch like the middle class and poor do) to sit up and take an active interest in the mechanics of price hikes. I am sure there are retired economists, entrepreneurs, consumerists, academics, statisticians and managers with a reservoir of experience who can join hands to identify the way in which prices are increased.

They can also point out to government areas of unjustified increases in prices for the executive to act on. They can also work with the private sector to rationalise price hikes. I am curious about how much profit traders make in any sale or transaction.

Is there any authority that keeps tabs on these things or is it a laissez-faire system where everyone makes as much profit as they want? The argument may be made that no one is forcing anyone to buy at a particular shop or outlet. Willing buyer, willing seller as the saying goes.

And therein lies the rub as unwilling buyers are now forced to buy at willing outlets that don’t mind inflating prices as they have a captive audience.

Is there a choice available to consumers? Not really. Those in housing estates are at the mercy of sundry shops that charge 20-30% more than some supermarkets which in turn charge 20% or more than hypermarkets.

Can we have a directory of enterprises for the consumer to refer to for fair prices? Can someone get this going on the internet for the public good? There are a whole raft of things that the consumers can do if we put our collective mind to it. Remember. We are a potent force who can make or break businesses.

Even as I delve into the litany of woes facing the average consumer, I want to highlight the plight of the poor who earn meagre salaries and are struggling to make ends meet. The poor will always be with us and it is incumbent on everyone else to come to their aid, irrespective of their race or religion.

Poverty strips everyone of their dignity and right to a decent life. As Alexander Pope’s immortalised saying “hope springs eternal in the human breast” resonates in my mind, I want to end on a similar note.

I pray that Malaysians journey through this year as best as they can given the strength of human spirit which can rise to the occasion as and when necessary. Happy New Year.

I RETURNED from abroad last Saturday, landing at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in the wee hours of the morning. As three flights landed at almost the same time, the pedestrian lanes were busy with passenger traffic.

The joy of returning home was, however, marred by a number of things that could have been avoided if those in charge of the airport had done their job that day. The first hurdle was the fact that the escalator was out of service. I saw old men and women struggle with their hand luggage as they climbed the flight of steps with no one to help them.

Malaysia 2014

As we stood in line at the immigration checkpoint, the manual line seemed to move faster than the autogate when logic dictates that it should have been the other way around. We later found that only one gate had been opened for three plane loads of exhausted people.

The baggage carousel area was another disaster as hundreds of weary travelers tried to keep their cool as they tried to negotiate around a sea of trolleys. Clearly the place was not made for a large crowd. If anyone thought that this was the end of their woes, they were sorely mistaken.

The taxi line was overflowing with passengers, some with children, with nary a taxi in sight. The attendant on duty told me that this had been the case the whole day. I know that the LCCT is a no-frills area but please have a heart for those who use it. We are not second class travelers and deserve the same conveniences available at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Not that some of those landing there are not complaining either. A friend flew in the other day with an aged relative and was unable to find a single trolley. The other problem was that not one premier taxi was available.

I believe we have the infrastructure in place at our airports. It’s just that monitoring is below par. Let’s hope that Visit Malaysia Year 2014 will not be marred by these hiccups in an otherwise good system.

Balan Moses, theSun‘s executive editor (news), like many other Malaysians, feels for the poor, the underprivileged, the disabled and those barely keeping their nose above water. He wants to galvanize Malaysians to put their best foot forward to help the underclasses live decently with pride and dignity even as those blessed more in every respect do their bit for their lesser Malaysian cousins. Feedback:

Time for an Open and Accountable Government

January 1, 2014

Here We Are in 2014: Time for an Open and Accountable Government

We are in 2014. Dr Kamsiah and I were at The Royal Selangor Golf ClubFacebook-K and D with dear friends last night to usher in the New Year. It was a nice gathering of club members who sat together to chat about the good old times and discuss what 2014 is likely to be, given the state of our divisive politics. My friends and I at our table agreed that politicians on both sides should not play with the fire of racial discord and religious exclusivism. Instead we should be celebrating our diversity.

Read this:

While we were partying, our fellow Malaysians at Dataran Merdeka were protesting the price hikes (toll and assessment rates, electricity charges and related matters) at Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square). It was a peaceful affair; and that was not unexpected. We Malaysians have shown time and again that we are a peaceful and responsible people. Due credit must go to Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, and his men and women of the Royal Malaysian Police for  a good job of managing the traffic and facilitating  this democracy in action. It was only the Government which, as usual, had tried to stop this price hike protest.

My message to the Najib administration for 2014 is that it should learn to communicate. Don’t assume that we Malaysians are stupid and can be easily be misled. There is, therefore, a need for the Government to explain its policies more effectively. Communicating is not spinning. On the other hand, it is about putting your points of view clearly so that the public can understand what their government wants to do, and why. Feedback from the Malaysian public will ensure that protests are unnecessary when the government listens to people before it formulates policies.

With this in mind, I am prepared to post press releases from government ministries and departments. Their Press officers should feel to contact me if they wish to have their releases read by and commented upon by readers on this blog, at home and abroad. The social media has become popular to reach out to the public, since the mainstream media is deemed to be an instrument of government. Let us begin 2014 with an open and accountable government.–Din Merican

Rosmah and her Excesses: Who’s to Blame?

November 23, 2013

Rosmah and her Excesses: Who’s to Blame?

by Josh Hong (11-22-13)

Rosmah Mansor’s jet-setting incident reveals more about our society than the woman herself. We all know the entire cabinet is subservient to successive Prime Ministers’ will and would not object to their demands. Deep down their hearts, the ministers know that they would have no qualms demanding the same privilege once they ascend to the highest office. Or perhaps their spouses have been abusing their own position in other ways, with or without public knowledge.

Rosmah in QatarMalaysia’s First Royalty

The self-styled ‘First Lady’ has been courting one controversy after another since the day Najib Abdul Razak took over as prime minister nearly five years ago. Her notorious spending sprees, done more abroad than at home, are widely publicised, with her husband apparently unable to rein her in.

Rosmah is clearly not satisfied with just being the spouse of a head of government, for she appears to be courting the status as a consort at all times. A ceremonial role is obviously not her cup of tea, which is why she organised the world’s first and last First Ladies Summit and played the inaugural host in Kuala Lumpur in 2010. Alas, the event was nothing but a flop. The turnout was so poor that no other country seems keen to host it again.

The only person who spoke well of the summit was none other than Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, who is as interesting as an overnight roti canai.

Some sycophant journalists tried to address Rosmah as First Lady as used in a republic. There was even at one time a First Lady Office of Malaysia (FLOM) within the Prime Minister’s Department, which was later removed and perhaps renamed after much public criticism.

In any case, the fact that Najib has time and again succumbed to his wife’s unconstitutional influence is detestable. Under the Westminster Parliamentary System, the spouse of a prime minister, unlike in the United States or other republics, enjoys no official title.

What is more, in the context of Malaysia, the spouse of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong takes precedence over a prime minister’s wife, rendering Rosmah’s attempt to usurp the First Lady title ridiculous and untenable.

Truth be told, Malaysia has not had a flamboyant and attention-Hasmah Mohd Ali, wife of Malaysia's former PM Mohamad, smiles as she arrives for closing dinner of Langkawi International Dialogue 2007 in Langkawiseeking prime minister’s wife until Rosmah came along. For all my disagreement with Mahathir Mohamad, his wife Siti Hasmah remains a likeable figure and had performed her duties with dignity as a prime minister’s wife, although I do think her recent plea for Mukhriz Mahathir in the hope of raising her son’s chances in the UMNO election has tarnished her image somewhat.

Thanks to mainstream media protection and UMNO’s tight grip on the state machinery, Rosmah has been able to weather all the storms and come off unscathed. But the wider issue is whether all public office holders should allow their family members to enjoy access to official functions or be part of the entourgage on official trips.

Two wrongs do not make a right

lgeOn this, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s recent travel to China comes to mind. While Lim may argue his government had spent much less on overseas trips since 2008, it is unwise of him to justify the inclusion of his wife in the delegation by citing an old law passed by the previous administration under Barisan Nasional!

Two wrongs do not make a right, and those who yearn for change in Malaysia have witnessed enough double standards from both sides of the political divide.

Quite clearly, should there be more controversies as such in the future that implicate Pakatan Rakyat leaders, how on earth would they be endowed with moral authority and certitudes to criticise Rosmah? I am not saying Pakatan leaders must not take their spouses along for official travels, but clear rules and regulations must be in place for the sake of transparency and integrity. Retorting by saying that BN does the same is just flimsy and lame, pure and simple.

However, the most troubling aspect, as I see it, is the hypocrisy on the part of many Malaysians. They may gossip about Rosmah’s expensive taste and extravagance, but will not lift a finger to protest. Worse, they may even be the first to seize a photo opportunity with her. This connivance and acquiescence is, to me, far more deplorable than Rosmah’s vainglorious lifestyle itself.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

More on RM7.2 billion in Consulting Fees

November 16, 2013

More on RM7.2 billion in Consulting Fees

by Aidila Razak (11-15-13)@

rosmah-najibMalaysia’s Big Spending Couple

What can RM7.2 billion buy? Going by figures in the 2012 and 2014 Budget speeches, this could pay for Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia handouts to benefit a whopping 13.1 million people.

However, from 2009 till October 2013, the government spent exactly that amount to pay for private consultants, a written reply to Parliament has revealed.

The written reply to PKR’s Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen does not state who these consultants are and what they were paid for. This action of the government in outsourcing policy work to consultants is not entirely new.

McKinsey-logo1Top consultancy firm McKinsey said it has “advised the Malaysian government on public policy and economic development since the mid-1980s”, including on the Multimedia Super Corridor project.

“And today, we continue to advise the government on critical strategies for growth and competitiveness, for example high technology, logistics or education,” McKinsey says on its website.

At RM7.2 billion, however, it appears that the administration of Frost and SullivanPrime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is taking the outsourcing trend a notch higher. One big winner under the Najib administration is Frost and Sullivan which, according to its website, is making Malaysia its biggest growth focus in the Asia Pacific region.

’100 consultants in three years’

The Frost and Sullivan website advertises a long list of jobs available at its Malaysian offices – mostly in consulting for government in the Iskandar region – but has only six jobs on offer for the rest of Asia-Pacific.

Established in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 with a handful of employees, its Kuala Lumpur office today boasts 100 consultants who serve 18 countries in the region.

According to technology news portal Digital News Asia, Frost and Sullivan counts the following government agencies and government-linked companies as clients:

  • Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda)
  • Malaysian Investment Development Authority
  • Malaysia Development Corporation
  • Mimos Bhd
  • Malaysia Debt Ventures Bhd
  • DRB-Hicom
  • Telekom Malaysia
  • Sime Darby
  • Felda Holdings

Frost and Sullivan is not the only consulting company, foreign or local, riding the Malaysian government outsourcing gravy train.

Below is a list of consulting firms that list the Malaysian government as their client, based publicly-available information.This information is not exhaustive and does not scratch the surface of the RM7.2 billion bill – but it can still serve as a taster of what it was used for:

1. McKinsey and Co

idris-jala-pemandu-genericKnown Fees for Setting Up Permandu: Nearly RM 50 million: An  Expensive Toy for Mr. Jala

  • Setting up of the Performance and Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu), 2009 – RM36 million.
  • National Education Blueprint, 2012 – RM20 million.
  • Grooming mid-tier companies via Agensi Inovasi Malaysia 2012-2013 – RM36 million.

2. Hay Group

  • Setting up Pemandu, 2009 – RM11 million.

3. Ethos & Co

  • Setting up Pemandu, 2009 – RM1.5 million.

4. Alpha Platform (M) Sdn Bhd

  • Setting up Pemandu, 2009 – RM1.5 million.

5. An “external consultant” named “Tarmidizi”

  • Setting up Pemandu, 2009 – RM3 million.

6. Boston Consulting Group

  • Setting up Pemandu and facilitating the Economic Transformation Programme labs, 2009 – cost unknown.
  • Study on funds disbursement in the public sector via Special Innovation Unit (Unik), 2010 – cost unknown.
  • Survey on free trade agreements for the Ministry of International Trade and Investment, 2013 – cost unknown.

7. Provectis

  • Setting up Pemandu and facilitating the Economic Transformation Programme labs, 2009 – cost unknown.

8. Apco Worldwide

  • Boosting Malaysia’s international image, 2009-2010 – RM76.8 million.
  • Anti-Anwar Ibrahim propaganda (jointly commissioned with FBC Media), 2008-2011 -RM1.2 million.

9. FBC Media

  • Boosting Malaysia’s international image 2007-2010 – RM84 million.

10. Brighton Education Group, British Council and SM HR Group

  • English mentoring programme to raise standards of English language in national schools, 2010-2013 – RM270 million.

11. PA Consulting Group

  • Assisted the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in developing energy policy for the 10th Malaysia Plan – year and cost unknown.

12. Vision Technology Computing

  • Assisted Pemandu in developing the Key Performance Indicator reporting system – year and cost unknown.

13. Alpha Catalyst Consulting

  • National innovation strategy study via Unik, 2011 – cost unknown.

Borders bookstore manager fails to get charge against her dropped

Borders bookstore manager fails to get charge against her dropped

October 07, 2013

A customer in a Borders bookstore in Kuala Lumpur. – Reuters pic.

Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, the manager of Borders bookstore, has failed in her attempt to get the charge against her for distributing a ‘banned’ book by Canadian author Irshad Manji dropped.

Syariah judge Abdul Walid Abu Hassan dismissed the application after ruling that the civil High Court’s judicial review decision in finding the charge groundless, should not be used to interfere in Syariah court proceedings.

He said Nik Raina has not been tried and it was up to the Syariah prosecutor to prove their case whether the book was against the Islamic law (Hukum Syarak).

The judge then stayed the trial pending appeal by the prosecutor in the judicial review.

Nik Raina, 36, was accused on June 19 last year of distributing Manji’s Bahasa Malaysia translation of the book titled “Allah, Liberty and Love”.

She was alleged to have committed the offence on May 23 last year at the Borders bookshop at Level 3, The Gardens Mall, in Mid Valley City.

On March this year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur found the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) to have acted illegally in raiding the bookstore and seizing the books.

The High Court also found that it had acted illegally in charging Nik Raina in the syariah court. – October 7, 2013.


Say NO to TPPA–Press Release

August 24, 2013

Say NO to TPPA–Press Release




Pertubuhan-pertubuhan yang menganggotai BANTAH TPPA dengan ini menyeru kepada 12 Negara yang menyertai Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) untuk menolak sebarang usaha ke arah Penjajahan Korporat terhadap warga Asia Pasifik dan berusaha untuk melindungi, mengekalkan dan mempromosi sistem perdagangan yang benar-benar bebas, adil dan selamat di antara negara-negara yang terlibat.

Kami menggunakan istilah Penjajahan Korporat untuk merujuk Regim TPPA, kandungannya dan proses perlaksanaannya kerana kepentingan gergasi-gergasi korporat sangat jelas telah mempengaruhi peruntukan-peruntukan kontroversi di dalam perjanjian ini dan kerajaan-kerajaan pula telah ditekan dan dipaksa untuk menerimanya.

Sekali lagi, gabungan Bantah TPPA menyeru kerajaan – kerajaan yang menyertai TPPA untuk menolak sebarang usaha menundukkan rakyat dan negara ini dengan perangkap ekonomi yang tersembunyi di balik tabir oleh syarikat-syarikat transnational Amerika.

Ia adalah satu perjanjian mudarat yang akan memberi kesan kepada kedaulatan negara, memperjudikan kesejahteraan ekonomi, dan akan menyebabkan kesusahan dan penderitaan kepada rakyat negara ini.

Mengkhianati niat tulen kerajaan-kerajaan dan rakyat negara-negara berkenaan untuk meneruskan perdagangan antarabangsa yang adil dan kerjasama ekonomi yang bermanfaat ke arah pertumbuhan ekonomi yang kukuh, kestabilan dan kesejahteraan bersama.

Kami, rakyat Malaysia mewakili semua kaum, budaya, kepercayaan, kepentingan, pekerjaan, kerjaya dan dagangan dengan ini mengumumkan bahawa kami tidak akan menerima dan dengan tegas menolak sebarang keputusan perundingan TPPA jika pandangan, kebimbangan dan tuntutan kami tidak dilibatkan dengan cara yang sepatutnya.





23 Ogos 2013

Clare Rewcastle Brown: Barred but Defiant

August 17, 2013

The Saturday Profile

Barred From Malaysia, but Still Connecting With Critical Jabs

by Gerry Mullany, published: August 16, 2013

brown-articleLargeCLARE REWCASTLE BROWN is persona non grata in her native Malaysia, barred from entering the former British colony.

But that does not silence Ms. Rewcastle Brown, who is one of the most effective voices calling attention to deforestation in Malaysia. The booming economy there, she contends, has been fueled in part by the country’s willingness to tap its natural resources in ways that have enriched the leadership of her native Sarawak, a vast state on Borneo Island long known for its stunning natural beauty and biodiversity.

Through Internet postings and shortwave radio transmissions from London, Ms. Newcastle Brown has given voice to growing concerns among Malaysians about environmental degradation. She spreads her message on social media, her Sarawak Report Web site and broadcasts on Radio Free Sarawak.

“They can’t do this in Malaysia,” she said by phone of her reporting on a country that holds regular democratic elections, but where the government nevertheless exerts strong controls on the news media. “They’d be arrested immediately, and their livelihoods would be destroyed.”

Malaysia is emblematic of Asian nations that are enjoying newfound prosperity, but struggling to adhere to democratic ideals in a world where social media is shaping public opinion and testing entrenched leaders. Its prime minister, Najib Razak, was recently re-elected, but the governing coalition failed to secure a majority vote for the first time in 44 years. Through the global reach of social media, Ms. Rewcastle Brown found easy entree into Malaysia’s brewing environmental debates from her perch in London.

Ms. Rewcastle Brown, 54, the daughter of a Police Officer in Sarawak during colonial days, recalls flying away from Borneo to attend boarding school as a child.

“I have vivid memories of leaving North Borneo at 8, and I remember the vast canopy of rain forest,” she said.

Four decades later — after a journalism career at the BBC World Service, ITV News and Sky Television in London — she returned to Sarawak for an environmental conference in Kuching and was taken aback by the destruction of the forests.

“You had a tiny clique — a family — that is driving this. There are a handful of people making the money out of this,” she said in reference to relatives of Abdul Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of Sarawak. Mr. Abdul Taib, she asserts, has used his control over timber concessions to enrich himself and his relatives, who, she says, park many of their assets overseas.

“For the next year I looked into the subject,” she recalled, “and was perturbed nobody was covering it.”

WITH help from the Bruno Manser Fund — named after a Swiss environmental activist who disappeared in Malaysia in 2000 and is presumed dead — she started the Sarawak Report in 2010, tapping into online discussions in Malaysia and, with the help of others, writing investigative news reports in English for a Malaysian audience from Covent Garden in London. (She would not say where the operations are based now, citing safety reasons.)

Next came Radio Free Sarawak, helped along by a drive that put 10,000 shortwave radios in the hands of Malaysians to hear the broadcasts, an effort aided by local churches and opposition groups.

“They have verandas where families will sit together and listen to the radio,” Ms. Rewcastle Brown said. To increase the audience, they eventually moved the broadcasts to later in the day to accommodate workers coming home from rice paddies.

Her effort was anonymous at first — Sarawak Report was started while her brother-in-law, Gordon Brown, was in his last months in office as the British Prime Minister. She is married to Mr. Brown’s younger brother, Andrew.

“I kept my head down while he was Prime Minister,” she said. But relatives helped persuade her to go public to raise the profile of her work. “It was my family who said it was best to come out into the open.”

taib-mahmud-landHer news outlets focus heavily on assertions that Mr. Abdul Taib’s family has accumulated billions of dollars of wealth, channeling it to real estate in North America and London, while dominating various industries in Malaysia helped along by his political influence.

MR. ABDUL TAIB (Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud) is now facing an inquiry by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and has lashed back at the panel, calling its members “naughty and dishonest” for looking into his activities, and saying allegations that he has Swiss and other overseas bank accounts are “malicious falsehoods.”

In early July, Ms. Rewcastle Brown arrived at Kuching International Airport in Sarawak, only to be detained at the airport and put back on a plane for Singapore.

Bridget Welsh, a Political Science Professor at Singapore Management Bridget Welsh University and an expert on Malaysian affairs, credits the two news outlets that Ms. Rewcastle Brown runs for their “impact on the political debate” over deforestation in Sarawak.

“Taib’s leadership has been badly affected in the urban areas, especially among the Chinese, as the revelations have reverberated among the more educated and Internet connected,” she said. Still, she said, deforestation would likely continue, since “the elite in Malaysia are concerned with making money.”

In the meantime, Ms. Rewcastle Brown faces her own challenges, like Web sites created to undercut her work by using similar names, and aggressive Malaysian-financed public relations efforts that seek to portray the Malaysian government’s environmental efforts in a positive light. And she does her work while she and her husband, Andrew Brown, a former journalist now working in the energy industry, raise two teenage boys.

Does she regret her shift into opposition journalism from afar? She recalled how she had been inspired by the work of Mr. Manser when she started looking into the deforestation of Sarawak.

“I must try to do something,” she said of the genesis of her efforts. “I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t try.”

Khairy Jamaluddin: Back in the Spotlight

June 15, 2013

MY COMMENT: Oxford educated Khairy Jamaluddin is the spokesman of international media for the Najib administration. Never underestimate his political resilience.

The Prime Minister’s Department is now like The White House, where the spokesman manages press relations. This is a good move since KJ is charismatic, intelligent and articulate; he has a way with words, an essential quality of any spokesman. It is also a reward for his patience and service to UMNO in particular for his support of Prime Minister Najib who is fighting to keep job as Party President and Prime Minister. 

It is  difficult to tell what effect this appointment will have on Najib’s political fortune. But I believe that KJ is astute enough to use this opportunity to further strengthen his position in UMNO and the Najib Administration. He is our man to watch in UMNO, and I congratulate and wish him well.–Din Merican

Khairy Jamaluddin: Back in the Spotlight

by The Malaysian Insider (06-14-13) @

Not too long ago, he was sidelined by the UMNO-owned media, vilified as a member of the infamous Fourth Floor and deemed untrustworthy by the Najib administration.


All in all, he was headed for political mediocrity. Not anymore. Today, Khairy Jamaluddin is the go to guy for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Appointed Minister of Youth and Sports, he has also been named government spokesman of international media.

In return, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi has become a loyal cheerleader for the PM at a time when there is roiling debate on the PM’s strategy and performance at GE13 and growing discourse on whether there should a no-contest for the top UMNO position at the coming polls.

It is notable that many UMNO bloggers with a fondness for the Mahathir era have called for contest for the top two positions and The Malaysian Insider has learnt that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also communicated to Najib the need for democracy to thrive in UMNO. In contrast, the mainstream media, under direction from Putrajaya, has been sourcing comments and quotes from the likes of Khairy and other UMNO politicians supporting a no-contest, a move which will keep Najib as UMNO President.

Sources in Putrajaya told The Malaysian Insider that in addition to beingNajib and Badawi close to Najib, Khairy now enjoys good ties with the First Lady, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, a seismic change from sometime ago.

So how did the change from outcast to insider happen? Government officials say that Najib’s camp were initially wary of Khairy’s ambitious streak and political allegiance. The PM’s advisors also were mindful of Mahathir’s antipathy towards Khairy and Abdullah, with the former PM believing that his legacy was damaged by the Pak Lah-Khairy combination.

But Khairy hunkered down and just concentrated on political programmes, stayed below the radar and made it clear that his loyalty was to Najib. His upward fortunes have also been helped by the fact that he was one of a few BN politicians who emerged from the polls with a commanding majority and with a rare commodity in UMNO these days: the ability to speak and write proficiently in English.

tengku-adnan-01Najib’s advisors also believe that in the run-up to the party polls, it will be important to bring as many “fighters and orators” into his camp, especially if there is a challenge to the top position in the party.

This thinking explains why the likes of Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, Datuk Tajudin Rahman, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz were rewarded with positions as Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

Khairy, apart from being given the task of putting together programmes to win over younger Malaysians and help cobble together a better image for Malaysia in international media, is also expected to shore up support for the PM among UMNO politicians who will be voting in the party polls in October.

By giving Khairy a place at the main table, there is also a hope that UMNO politicians loyal to Abdullah Badawi will also fall in line and throw their support behind Najib.

As a political strategy and a reward system for a politician who has stayed the course, promoting Khairy is sound. But it is also a path fraught with some craters. The UMNO Youth chief is still persona no grata on Mahathir’s list and his higher profile may provoke a stinging response from the former PM, a complication Najib and UMNO can do without.

KL112: The Winners and Losers

January 13, 2013

KL112: The Winners and Losers

by Malaysiakini@

Anwar at KL112

For the past few decades, the authorities had placed numerous obstacles for Opposition parties to gather en masse, citing security concerns and traffic as the usual reasons.

The People’s Uprising Rally (KL112), in keeping with its revolutionary theme, saw the authorities essentially giving opposition parties free passage to do almost whatever they wanted.

Obviously, there was a political gamble at play in view that the 13th general election is around the corner. Malaysiakini examines who had most to gain from this high stakes gamble.


Pakatan Rakyat

This is IT-KL112Even before the rally was concluded, photographs of an overflowing Stadium Merdeka had gone viral over the Internet, proving to undecided voters that the coalition does enjoy mass public support and is a legitimate candidate for Putrajaya. What Pakatan needs to do now is to take advantage of momentum and spread the central message of the rally – the ten point declaration – throughout the country.

Civil society

Several key civil society movements, especially for environmental causes, have grown exponentially in strength over the past years and command a sizeable following, which was displayed during KL112.

Evolving from the initial not-in-my-backyard (Nimby) philosophy, Malaysia’s various green movements have now gone national as people begin to recognise the importance of civil society in shaping the nation.

Tan Sri Ismail Omar

In the run up to KL112, the Police released several statements in an accommodating tone, Ismail Omarto the extent of promising that they had set a ‘zero casualty’ target. The whole time, Inspector-General of police Ismail Omar didn’t say a single word, leaving the talking to his subordinates.

Had things turned sour, Ismail would have taken the rap as usual. But now, he will be remembered for the fact that his men stayed true to their word.

Traders near Stadium Merdeka

Save for one stall owner selling gas masks, traders who set up shop around Stadium Merdeka were all smiles because they were enjoying brisk sale of T-shirts, drinks and food.

Previously, one group of traders claimed BERSIH 3.0 had cost them great losses. Perhaps they should sharpen their eye for opportunities.


Najib Abdul Razak

In the past, Pakatan wasn’t able to fill half of the 25,000 capacity MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya. Was the Prime Minister hoping for the same this time round, so he could ridicule them later?

NONEInternally, UMNO die-hards are probably curious to know why their President allowed the event to proceed when it could have been dealt with, by many old and proven methods.

More importantly, the public will also be questioning Najib and his party on whether they can pull off a similar spectacle without paying the participants.


From sodomy to a Christian conspiracy to eroding Malay rights, UMNO and BN component parties have slung mud in every shape and size at Pakatan since 2008.If the turnout was an indicator of reputation, nothing appears to be sticking.

Mainstream Media organisations
112 rally newspaper 130113 02 malay and english

Save for Sinar Harian and all the Chinese media organisations, the focus was not on turnout nor the message of the rally but the various infractions chalked up by the rally organisers.

Unfortunately for them, videoclips and photographs – in particularly an aerial shot by AFP capturing the scene in and around Stadium Merdeka – are being widely circulated online, helping the public to have a clearer understanding of what transpired.

Thumbs Up for PDRM, But it flubs out on its math test

January 13, 2013

Thumbs Up for PDRM, But it flubs out on its math test

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT: This time round, the Police Force passed the test of its public relations skills in handling a major protest rally. Some things do change, after all, in Malaysia.

After the PR disasters of its handling of the BERSIH rallies of July 2011 and April 2012, the Police tackled the ‘People’s Uprising’ rally that was staged at the Stadium Merdeka yesterday by the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat with intelligence and restraint.

But, as if to make the point that this panache was an aberration rather than a characteristic, the Force proceeded to flunk its math test. It revised downwards its initial estimate of the crowd at the rally to 45,000. One supposes it had to make things easy for its political masters.

If the Police had allowed their initial estimate that the crowd in the stadium proper at the height of the rally was 80,000, then the numbers of people who were headed to the venue from multiple directions but could not get in, and the numbers massed in the parking area of the stadium would inflate the overall attendance to past the 100,000 figure.

rally people's uprising bird's eye view

So, the force had to sugarcoat things for its political commissars and revise its final estimate of the crowd to almost half its initial calculation.

When full to the brim, Stadium Merdeka, as anyone old enough to remember hockey’s World Cup final in 1975 will agree, can hold 50,000 people. If the green sward of its oval is filled with people, as it was yesterday at the height of the rally, then you can add another 30,000 to number already in the terraces.

kl rally himpunan kebangkitan rakyat 120113 policeThat would have made the 80,000 of the Police Force’s initial estimate a credible calculation, but somewhere in its immediate post-rally cogitation of events, the force had to make things easy for its UMNO masters to manipulate – it revised its estimate downwards.

The Force declined the opportunity that beckoned to go the full distance in giving Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s ballyhooed ‘transformation of government and the economy’ projects the bite it had lacked.

After, uncharacteristically, passing its PR test in handling the ‘People’s Uprising’ rally, it flubs out on its math – the better to coddle an UMNO-BN neurosis.

This is that big crowds at Opposition-organised rallies presage electoral reverses for UMNO-BN. This was how the huge protest rallies of BERSIH and Hindraf in November 2007 wound up for UMNO-BN at the polls in March the following year.

Electoral dice is rolling against BN

In the final lap to the country’s 13th general election, a huge rally for Pakatan, seen against the backdrop of the throngs that attended the Bersih rallies of July 2011 and April 2012, will only reinforce intimations of impending electoral defeat for UMNO-BN.

Never mind, such intimations have already prompted record levels of capital flight from the country – RM200 billion in 2010 alone, the second highest in the world after China, according to Global Financial Integrity.

The lucre accumulated by the guilty classes can be stashed abroad with impunity, although that demonstration with their wallets is actually a vote of no-confidence in their UMNO-BN political patrons.

NONEBut ordinary Malaysians, attenuated from the Internet-updated world, must be told a different story about the size of Opposition-inspired rallies held in the business capital of the country.

That was probably why the Police had to revise their initial estimate of yesterday’s crowd. They cannot be too candid when the electoral dice is rolling against their patrons.

But election pundits will make their own calculations, based on reports and videos taken of yesterday’s rally. Extrapolations would be made and predictions a little more optimistic that what the chief economist of Bank Islam made at a forum in Singapore last week would be aired. The economist predicted a slight victory for UMNO-BN.

The speed with which his employers dissociated the bank from the prediction was indicative of the jitters of anybody with links to the government over any action of theirs that may undermine the magnificent delusion the government wants foisted – that UMNO-BN, despite inauspicious signs, will win the 13th general election.

Based on the actual turnout, not the revised one of the Police, the next fortnight would see that delusion come in for severe jolting.

Najib’s Reassuring Christmas 2012 Message

December 25, 2012

Najib’s Reassuring Christmas 2012 Message to Malaysian Christians

by Razak Ahmad

Najib at MIC ConventionDatuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has assured the country’s Christians that he will remain open to hearing their concerns, hopes and ideas.

In his Christmas message, the Prime Minister acknowledged the country’s Christian community for its role in Malaysian society especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

“We are very fortunate that Malaysia continues to enjoy peaceful relations between different faiths and races. This doesn’t happen without our continued efforts to keep it that way, so I will always be open to hearing any hopes, concerns and ideas that members of the Christian community may have,” Najib said in his message that was posted on his blog (

Wishing all Malaysian Christians a Merry Christmas, Najib said that he would be having the pleasure of joining members of the faith in a Christmas Day tea party today where he will listen to their views.

He said that although Malaysia was a Muslim-majority country, some people might not realise that around one in 10 Malaysians was a Christian. Since becoming Prime Minister, Najib said he had placed much emphasis on the unifying concepts of 1Malaysia and the Global Movement of the Moderates. While the concepts were partly about establishing a dialogue, Najib said he was also determined that they lead to real action.

They include his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI last year, after which Malaysia formally established diplomatic relations with Vatican City.

“I very much enjoyed meeting Pope Benedict XVI in person, and now look forward to following his tweets!” said Najib, referring to the Pope who recently set up a Twitter account to communicate with his followers.

Najib said another step forward came last week when the Government announced that it would ensure any Malaysian Christian who wishes to travel to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage would be able to do so.

Tracing the roots of Malaysia’s Christians, Najib said Persian and Turkish traders brought Nestorian Christianity to the country as early as the 7th century. They were followed by the Portuguese who brought Catholicism in the 15th century and the Dutch who spread Protestantism in the 17th century.

“As Christmas comes in the last week of the year, it is also a good time to reflect on what has been and will be,” said Najib.

Obama’s Invigorated Second Term

November 8, 2012

Obama’s victory is just the latest chapter of his remarkable story. It remains to be seen if he can deliver his promises of change and renewal to America – but no one can doubt that he has revolutionised its political scene, perhaps forever.–Karim

New York Times Editorial: An Invigorated Second Term for Barack Obama

Early Wednesday morning, as sleep-deprived supporters rallied for a final cheer, President Obama concluded his re-election campaign with a promising glimpse at what the fight was all about: a second-term agenda that can make real progress on issues neglected in the first.

Without question, the President intends to build on and improve the significant accomplishments of the last four years, particularly the full implementation of health care reform and the use of government policy to keep the economy growing. But the President went beyond that in his victory speech and added some less familiar words to his policy vocabulary.

Children should live in a world that is not burdened by debt or weakened by inequality, he said, but also one “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” That suggests he knows he has an opportunity to address climate change with more vigor, going beyond auto-mileage standards and renewable-energy jobs to possibly advocating tougher carbon emissions standards.

The President also said he was looking forward to working with Republicans to fix the immigration system, giving him a chance to do more than promote the Dream Act for young immigrants. He could lead the way to comprehensive reform that combines strong enforcement with a path to citizenship for immigrants already here. He also hinted that combating poverty might move higher on his priority list.

And he spoke of tax reform, an issue that will immediately begin to grow louder with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts at year’s end.

Mr. Obama won re-election on an unambiguous promise not to renew those cuts for incomes of $250,000 or more, and his supporters expect him to stick to that vow. In coming months, after he persuades Congress to keep taxes from rising on the middle class, he should push to restore a fair estate tax and raise the low capital gains rate to the level of ordinary income.

He even mentioned the need to fix a balloting system that left thousands of people standing in long lines to vote this week, a tantalizing hint that electoral reform might become a priority.

All these agenda items require the same ingredient: ending his standoffish attitude toward Congress and working closely with any leader or lawmaker willing to make real progress. That may be easier now that Senate Democrats (and their independent allies) have expanded their majority by two seats to 55, many of them filled with newcomers more liberal and feisty than their predecessors, most notably Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The new Democratic caucus’s first order of business should be a reform of the filibuster that prevents its routine abuse by Republicans, and the majority leader, Harry Reid, suggested Wednesday that he supported some modest changes. The newcomers, along with the White House, should forcefully advocate that he go as far as possible.

A newly energized Obama administration and Senate could have the effect of isolating the supply-side dead-enders in the House. John Boehner, the House speaker, announced Wednesday that nothing had changed; he and his caucus still oppose higher tax rates for the rich and still want to pursue Mr. Romney’s defeated goal of raising revenue by lowering rates and cutting unspecified loopholes.

Standing up to Republican recalcitrance on this and many other issues will require bringing to bear political pressure from the coalition that gave Mr. Obama a commanding victory in the Electoral College on Tuesday.

The President’s victory was decisive, and many who didn’t support him nonetheless told pollsters that they agreed with his positions on taxes, health care and immigration. He now needs to use the power that voters have given to him to enhance and broaden his agenda.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on November 8, 2012, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: An Invigorated Second Term.

Obama Wins but Washington remains divided as ever

by Peter Baker (11-07-12) @

After $6 billion, two dozen presidential primary election days, a pair of national conventions, four general election debates, hundreds of Congressional contests and more television advertisements than anyone would ever want to watch, the two major political parties in America essentially fought to a standstill.

When all the shouting was done, the American people on Tuesday more or less ratified the status quo that existed at the start of the day: they returned President Obama to the White House for another four years, reaffirmed Republican control of the House and kept the Senate in Democratic hands. As of Wednesday, the margins in the House and the Senate had each changed by just two or three seats.

The tie in effect went to the Democrats, who had more to lose but did not. Not only did they retain the presidency, they held off a concerted drive to take over the Senate and instead added slightly to their majority.

The Republicans lost a signal opportunity to win Senate seats in states that by most measures should be their territory — Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota — while losing seats they had held in Maine and Massachusetts.

For his part, Mr. Obama won a clear victory but less decisively than other presidents who were re-elected. He garnered just 50 percent of the popular vote, three percentage points lower than in 2008, in a sign of just how divided the country remains over his leadership. His margin in the Electoral College was stronger, but even if he wins Florida, which remained too close to call, he will be the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term with fewer electoral votes than in his first election, suggesting a narrowing of his coalition.

The bottom-line scorecard left Washington as divided as ever, with no resolution of most of the fundamental issues at stake. The profound debate that has raged over the size and role of government, the balance between stimulus spending and austerity and the proper level of taxation has not been settled in the least. The next two years could easily duplicate the last two as the parties battle it out.

At least in public, the two sides were pledging on Wednesday that things would change. In his victory speech, the president said he was “looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, struck a conciliatory tone Wednesday afternoon, saying he was ready to accept a budget deal that raised federal revenues if it was linked to an overhaul of entitlement programs and an overhaul of the tax code.

If nothing else, one issue does seem resolved by the election. The president’s health care program, which Mitt Romney had vowed to begin dismantling on the first day of his presidency, now seems certain to survive. While House Republicans continue to oppose it and may find ways to attack it through legislation, they now know that they do not have the ability to overturn it.

It also may be possible for the two sides to come together on another big issue: immigration. In his victory speech, Mr. Obama listed revamping the system as one of four specific goals. While he made little mention of immigration during campaign speeches, Democrats argue that Republicans may now be willing to find compromise given the election results and the growing power of the Latino vote. Some moderate Republicans agree, although it is not clear whether the party as a whole has come to that conclusion.

But it will be the fiscal issues that will play out in the short term, and both sides quickly moved to define the election results as a validation of their viewpoint.

Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal research group Center for American Progress, called the election “a decisive mandate for a fair tax system where the wealthy contribute to address our deficit challenges.”

Chris Chocola, the President of the conservative antitax group Club for Growth, congratulated House Republicans who had won and praised their “record of fighting to limit government and pass pro-growth policies.”

For now, uncertainty will probably continue for at least a few weeks as the newly re-elected president and re-elected Republicans circle warily and plot their next moves. Whether the talk of cooperation translates into action remains unclear, but many are already skeptical.

Dale Brown, the president of the Financial Services Institute, cited the “closeness of the election results” in urging Mr. Obama to tread lightly on any new regulatory initiatives, a priority for his group. But looking at the enormous fiscal issues confronting the country, Mr. Brown noted that “the next 13 months are critical” because after that, “Congress will be back in re-election mode and will not tackle anything that could put their own re-elects in jeopardy.”

A version of this news analysis appeared in print on November 8, 2012, on page P3 of the New York edition with the headline: Smoke Clears to Show a Battlefield Little Changed.

RIO+20 is a Milestone for Sustainable Development

June 13, 2012

RIO+20 is a Milestone for Sustainable Development

by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

Next week, world leaders gather for a momentous occasion — the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Will it be a success? In my opinion, yes.

To be sure, the negotiations have been lengthy. Even now there is more disagreement than agreement on the details of the so-called “outcome document” that will emerge. Yet that will not be the defining measure. Far more important is what the Rio conference has already accomplished. And that is to build a global movement for change.

Rio+20 is a milestone on a long road. The famous 1992 Earth Summit put sustainable development on the global agenda. Today, we have come to a broader and more nuanced understanding of this age-old imperative: how to better balance the development needs of a growing world population — so that all may enjoy the fruits of prosperity and robust economic growth — with the necessity of conserving our planet’s most precious resources: land, air and water.

At Rio, more than 100 heads of state and government will join an estimated 25,000 participants to map our way ahead. For too long we have sought to burn and consume our way to prosperity. That model is dead. At Rio, we must begin to create a new one — a model for a 21st century economy that rejects the myth that there must be a zero-sum trade-off between growth and the environment.

Increasingly, we understand that, with smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, alleviate poverty, create decent jobs and accelerate social progress in a way that respects the earth’s finite natural resources.

In this larger sense, I believe that momentum for change is already irreversible. The evidence is all around, hiding in plain sight in countries large and small, rich and poor. Barbados, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and South Africa, among many others, are already adopting “green growth” strategies that use limited natural resources more efficiently, create jobs and promote low-carbon development.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Senegal and Ukraine are applying new green-growth technologies in a variety of industries, from agriculture to tourism. China has committed to supply 16 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and plans to invest more than US$450 billion (RM1.35 billion) in waste recycling and clean technologies under its current five-year plan.

In Brazil, waste management and recycling employs more than 500,000 people, most of whom live on society’s margins. Under its new National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India has begun paying people to better manage natural resources, such as forests and fresh water.

Wherever you look, national and local authorities are adopting principles and practices that, taken together, could help move us from a prospect of environmental ruin and growing social inequality toward a new era of inclusive and balanced sustainable growth.

Governments and nation-states are not alone in driving this transformation. At Rio, more than 1,000 corporate leaders from all continents will deliver a common message: business as usual no longer works.  Many are members of the United Nations Global Compact — volunteers in a growing private-sector movement that understands that 21st-century corporate responsibility means corporate sustainability.

Thus Nike (a champion of so-called “closed loop” manufacturing that minimizes industrial pollution) has initiated a new program called Mata no Peito — a Portuguese colloquialism for “taking on a challenge” by helping protect Brazilian forest ecosystems. Unilever has pledged to source all its raw materials from sustainable sources by 2020.  Kenya’s Safaricom has integrated gender equality into its internal policies to create a mother-friendly environment.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced it will soon go carbon-neutral. China’s Broad Group produces non-electric air conditioning units that are 200 percent more energy efficient; it is now diversifying into other energy-saving products and sustainable buildings.

ToughStuff from Mauritius seeks to bring affordable and reliable solar energy to 33 million people in Africa by 2016, and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company is working to provide rural electrification in Afghanistan and the South Pacific island nation of Tonga.

Energy will be a major focus at Rio. I call it the “golden thread” that connects the dots to a sustainable future — the key driver for development, social inclusion and environmental protection, including climate change.

That is why, in 2011, I established a new initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. Our aim: to ensure universal access to modern energy services for the one in five people worldwide who lack them; to reduce energy waste by doubling energy efficiency; and to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

In Rio, leaders from government, business and civil society will announce a galaxy of actions to advance these goals, from promoting cleaner, more efficient cook-stoves to helping governments scale up their geothermal and other renewable energy potential. Sustainable Energy for All is the partnership model of the future.  The principle is simple but powerful: the United Nations uses its unrivalled convening power to bring all relevant actors to the table so they can work in common cause for the common good.

At bottom, this is what Rio+20 is all about. Yes, the negotiations themselves are very important. Agreements that can be committed to paper today will shape the debates of tomorrow. But Rio+20 goes beyond that.

It is the expression of a dynamic global movement for change — and a big step forward toward the future we want.

* Ban Ki-moon is Secretary-General of the United Nations

NFC could influence GE-13 outcome

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 16, 2012

NFC could be a decisive factor in GE-13 outcome if poorly handled, says Daim


UMNO Veteran and former  Finance Minister  (Tun)Daim Zainuddin warned that if the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal is not managed properly, it will affect the BN’s fate in the next general election.

“Generally, people tend to forget an issue after 14 days but ‘Cowgate’ is different, regardless of ethnicity, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian, they all know what a cow is about, the rural folk also know the value of a cow.

“You have to be careful, ‘Cowgate’ can affect many votes,” he told Sin Chew Daily in an exclusive interview published today.

daim zainuddinThe NFC scandal has a far greater impact compared with the Lynas rare earths plant issue, said Daim (left), because taxpayers’ money is used in the cattle breeding project.

The rare earth plant at Gebeng, Pahang, will not impact much on other states, he opined.

On the possible political landscape after the next polls, Daim said it will be most unfortunate if UMNO manages to maintain its support but with both MCA and Gerakan wiped out by voters.

It will show that the electorate is voting along racial lines instead of as Malaysians, and the country will continue to be divided by racial differences, he elaborated.

As a close colleague of former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Daim was UMNO treasurer from 1984 to 2001.

He served as Finance Minister from 1984 to 1991 and as minister with special functions at the Prime Minister’s Department in 1998, before being re-appointed as finance minister in 1999. He retired in 2001.

A year before the 2008 general election, Daim warned that BN will lose Penang, Selangor and Kedah and the ‘Daim prophecy’ proved true when the coalition was hit by the ‘political tsunami’ on March 8 that year.

“In victory, magnanimity”, Netto counsels

December 15, 2011

“In victory, magnanimity”, Netto counsels Lim Guan Eng and Pakatan

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT : “In victory, magnanimity.” Winston Churchill’s wartime counsel ought to be Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s guide in the flush of his court victory yesterday over Utusan Malaysia.

This victory may be overturned on appeal; the appellate courts in the country are not known to be Pakatan Rakyat-friendly, having upheld appeals against decisions awarded by courts in favour of the opposition.

Nevertheless, Lim’s success in the Utusan case ought to be occasion for the lifting of a ban on the UMNO-owned paper’s coverage of his public functions. To be sure, there was some justification for the ban: the paper had adopted a ‘hostility first, objectivity take the hindmost’ attitude towards DAP, particularly its Penang wing.

lim guan eng press conference on bicycle lane 251111 1From the time the DAP-led government was installed in Penang, Utusan had adopted a stance of rabid hostility towards Pakatan, particularly the DAP, selecting Lim for specially morbid coverage.

The DAP secretary-general had sued the paper a year ago for defamation over a speech he had delivered at the Pakatan convention in Kepala Batas on December 19.

Based on that speech, Utusan had published an article by correspondent Zulkiflee Bakar in its December 20 edition that High Court judge GV Varughese yesterday found to be defamatory towards Lim.

The judge ruled in Lim’s favour, awarding the Chief Minister RM200,000 in damages and ordering Utusan to pay RM25,000 as costs. The judge was unmoved by Zulkiflee’s plea that he could not verify the claims he had made in his article because the Chief Minister had imposed a bar on Utusan journalists covering his functions.

Media ban unwise

This bar was always unwise though it may have given enormous psychic satisfaction to its enforcers. The withdrawal of access, the banning of the attendance and circulation of hostile media, are not infrequently the responses of newsmakers when faced with inveterately hostile members of the fourth estate.

Not just the Penang CM’s cohort has enforced this boycott against Utusan, but PKR had also imposed this ban on the paper covering their functions held at the party headquarters in Tropicana.

There were grounds to impose the ban: a shrill Utusan has often been malevolent in its coverage of the Pakatan parties. When appeals to Utusan to be responsible in their coverage fell on deaf ears, both DAP and PKR resorted to barring journalists from the paper.

Still, it’s a kneejerk reaction of dubious value. In Utusan’s case, it did not lead to amended behaviour; in fact, the hostility only mounted.

utusan malaysia kritsian agama rasmiSure, it is easy to be high-minded when you are not at the end of the receiving line of abuse, particularly vitriol of the kind that can fan racial and religious tensions, as Utusan’s bilge manifestly has been.

But a ban on established media covering public functions is an action that cannot avoid being viewed as anything else but arbitrary; just as the press’s abdication of its duty of responsible journalism cannot avoid censure for being contemptible.

Both lapses from what is considered decorous are notably difficult to police, the interface between elected authority and the fourth estate in a democracy being an area that inherently defies parsing.

The area is best left disheveled, with the courts as the recourse to parties that feel libeled, or in the case of Utusan, impeded in pursuit of their function.

The gold standard

Pakatan should not resort to the ban towards hostile members of the fourth estate. Pakatan, which have suffered much from repression by the ruling UMNO-BN, and knowing how vital freedom of the press is to a democracy, should renounce such devices as boycotts and bans when faced with the adversarial press, no matter how implacable the hostility of members of the latter tribe gets.

NONETwo decades back, the late president of PAS, Fadzil Noor (right), displayed admirable understanding and composure during an annual assembly of the party when the perceived negative reporting of certain media drew angry threats from delegates to burn the publications and their representatives.

Fadzil interjected during assembly proceedings to remind irate delegates that members of the offending publications could not be held responsible for their biased coverage because they were merely hewers of wood and drawers of water.

He said the editors and owners of the press were the culpable ones so that action against their representatives at the assembly would only victimise those who were, in a sense, victims themselves.

Fadzil displayed commendable perspicuity at a point when the threat of harm to some journalists assigned to cover the PAS assembly was real. Present-day Pakatan leaders ought to adopt the attitude of one of the coalition’s founding lights as the gold standard in relations with a hostile press.

Najib, like Badawi, lacks conviction

September 22. 2011

Najib. like Badawi, lacks conviction

by Liew Chin Tong, DAP MP for Bukit Bendera

Like his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the ultimate challenge facing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not an external one. It is internal. In fact, it is an issue of personality. Najib simply lacks conviction.

A hundred foreign public relations firms doing a function similar to what the bright young advisers of Putrajaya’s fourth floor did during Pak Lah’s era won’t be able to solve the myriad of problems facing the Prime Minister.

Najib’s reform announcement on the eve of Malaysia Day has the potential to transform the country into a mature nation… something that Malaysians have been yearning for two decades.

His promises, among others, include putting an end to the various Emergency declarations, repealing the notorious Internal Security Act, and removing the annual licensing requirement for newspapers under the still very restrictive Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Since the beginning of discussions on Vision 2020 and “Melayu Baru” in the early 1990s, Malaysians of all backgrounds, Malays included, have been wanting Malaysia to be a normal democracy in which basic human rights are respected and due processes followed.

Anti-corruption and anti-cronyism, good governance, and fairer access to opportunities were the shared themes of the last three general elections (in 1999, 2004 and 2008) since the Asian economic crisis. This trend was highlighted all the more when Abdullah succeeded only by hijacking the reform platform in 2004.

While no one expected Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to reform the outdated institutions during his rule, many Malaysians, in particular Malays, tolerated his excesses in the 1990s as they hoped the then-Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would take over and liberate the system. But the future did not come and the past still refuses to go away.

Expectations for major institutional reform were particularly high after Abdullah assumed the premiership in October 2003, and stayed that way when Najib took over in April 2009.

Both Abdullah and Najib failed to deliver on the reforms they promised, and both had their credibility badly dented by their respective mishandling of the Bersih rallies of November 2007 and July 2011.

Najib effectively ended Abdullah’s tenure through meetings on September 17 and 26, 2008, citing the threat of Anwar’s September 16 claim and Abdullah’s diminishing popularity.

In the first instance, Abdullah conceded his much-coveted finance portfolio to Najib and, blood having been drawn, at the UMNO supreme council meeting a week later, Abdullah was forced to hasten his retirement plan.

Ironically, Najib’s fate seems to be a repeat of his predecessor’s, especially after a Merdeka Center survey revealed on August 29, 2011 that his popularity had dived further south. Sensing that the knives may already have been drawn, Najib sought desperately for some way to steer his fate away from the same path that he forced Abdullah onto.

Dr Mahathir was already seen lurking in the background. Note that he had already scheduled himself to give a huge television interview on Malaysia Day. I strongly suspect that this was what prompted Najib to make his big announcement on the eve of the big day.

Both Abdullah and Najib began their premiership cognizant of the fact that their success would be determined by the extent to which they could reform the oldest elected government in the world that is still in office.

Yet, none of them wanted to be a Mikhail Gorbachev or a B.J. Habibie. Perhaps glasnost has a bad name.

Few knew that autocrats in Taiwan and South Korea conceded Emergency powers under pressure from democratic uprisings in 1987 but managed to delay regime change for more than a decade by competing in reasonably clean and democratic elections, with the huge financial and administrative resources that were at their disposal.

South Korea saw a complete break only in 1997 with the election of Kim Dae-Jung while Taiwan’s regime change happened only in 2000. But, as I said, both Najib and Abdullah lack conviction. Without conviction there is no coherent agenda, not to mention determination and imagination — these are leadership qualities that define most reformers. 

Abdullah relied on the fourth-floor boys while Najib depends on one after another expensive foreign consultants. There is a strong tendency at all levels to mistake media advisers sitting in air-conditioned rooms for street-wise political strategists.

Top-level sophisticated strategists and operatives with stature among the UMNO rank and file such as Daim Zainuddin (above left), Sanusi Junid (right), the late Megat Junid and Aziz Samsuddin(below left) or a propagandist like the late Mohamed Rahmat who were active during Dr Mahathir’s time have no equivalent within both Abdullah and Najib teams.These individuals were extremely good at what they did and were ably led by Mahathir.

The previously effective political machine of UMNO which saw generations of brilliant political operatives at all levels from the top down to the village level has given way to a chase for contracts and nothing else.

Najib is now entering his “Pak Lah moment”, and unless he can reshape his game by at least changing his Cabinet, his future is already here for all to see.


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