Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy


July 24, 2014

Asia Pacific |​NYT Now. http://www.nytimes.com

Malaysian Leader’s Standing Rises With Successful Cellphone Diplomacy

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Intervention on Flight MH 17 Pays Off

by Keith Bradsher, Chris Buckley and David M. Herszenhorn, July 23, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — It wasn’t an aide or a diplomat on the phone with pro-Russian rebels, trying to get them to relinquish the bodies and the “black boxes” from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 in eastern Ukraine — it was the leader of Malaysia himself.

najib and his deputyMalaysia’s Prime Minister and His Deputy. Muhiyuddin Yassin

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia played an unusual personal role, holding a series of cellphone conversations with a rebel leader and then coaching a Malaysian colonel on what to say as he passed through nearly a dozen rebel checkpoints on his way to the crash scene, according to a person who was with the prime minister much of the time.

Mr. Najib’s success has at least temporarily restored his standing at home, where his government was battered by accusations of incompetence following the disappearance in March of another Malaysia Airlines jet, Flight MH 370. The arrival of most of the bodies and the flight data recorders from Flight MH 17 at a Ukrainian military base on Tuesday brought an outpouring of relief and praise in Malaysia.

But Mr. Najib’s willingness to negotiate directly with Alexander Borodai, the rebel leader, has prompted disquiet outside the country about whether the prime minister had lent unwarranted legitimacy to a man the Ukrainian government has condemned as a terrorist.

Malaysian officials say Mr. Najib established a rapport with Mr. Borodai over the weekend, and finally reached an agreement with him on Monday for handing over the remains and the recorders, which the rebels had taken from the crash site, in territory they control near the Russian border. The plane, a Boeing 777-200 with 298 aboard, was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was struck by an antiaircraft missile on July 17.

Opposition politicians in Malaysia who had excoriated Mr. Najib through the spring over Flight MH 370 endorsed his actions on Wednesday at a special session of Parliament and in a series of earlier statements. A senior opposition politician, Lim Kit Siang, wrote on his blog that the prime minister “is to be commended for the breakthrough with the handover of the two black boxes.” And Lim Guan Eng, the Secretary-Ggeneral of the Democratic Action Party, a major opposition bloc, said that his party was “willing to stand together with the federal government to support their efforts to bring back the bodies to their families.”

Officials in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, insisted that Mr. Najib’s arrangement with Mr. Borodai did not involve any promise of formal diplomatic recognition or payment to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Political analysts said that Mr. Najib’s domestic political bonanza depended partly on that remaining true.

“If it emerges that there are issues behind this deal, then things will be seen in a slightly different way,” said Bridget Welsh, a senior Research Associate at National Taiwan University who specializes in Malaysian politics.

The Malaysian delegation in Ukraine incurred the anger of many Ukrainians by using the honorific “excellency” in referring to Mr. Borodai, who styles himself the leader of a breakaway republic. But, at least in public, Mr. Najib has not used the term, referring to the rebel leader only as “Mr. Borodai.”

Few Malaysians have followed the Ukrainian conflict in detail, so the question of legitimizing Mr. Borodai, who is a Russian citizen, has barely been raised here. The overwhelming priority has been recovering the bodies of the 43 Malaysians who were on Flight MH17, including two infants — an especially sensitive matter in a mainly Muslim country where prompt and proper burial of the dead is a strong religious imperative.

“Over here, people don’t care how the deal was done,” said James Chin, a Professor of Political Science at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Monash University. “All they care is that the bodies are coming back, so that the families have closure.”

But, Mr. Chin said, Mr. Najib’s political boost might not last long. When he announced the deal earlyTuesday morning, Mr. Najib predicted that the bodies of Malaysians would be in their families’ hands by the end of Ramadan, which in Malaysia will be Sunday. But Dutch and Australian officials now say that it could take weeks or months to identify the remains, which are first being flown to a laboratory in the Netherlands.

MH17 Crash Site2

“Now he’s smelling like roses, but I suspect it’ll end in tears,” Mr. Chin said of Mr. Najib.The Prime Minister sharpened his criticism of the initial difficulties in recovering the bodies and data recorders in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, but he continued to refrain from assigning blame for the downing of the aircraft.

For Mr. Najib, the loss of a second Malaysia Airlines jet in less than five months is an ordeal that began when he received a call at his Kuala Lumpur home late last Thursday telling him that Flight MH 17 had disappeared from radar. The person who was with him for much of that night, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a ban on commenting publicly about the Prime Minister’s private activities, said that Mr. Najib immediately summoned officials to meet him at an emergency response center at the capital’s airport.

Airport guards outside the response center were not prepared for the appearance of the prime minister’s motorcade, with its escort of armed guards on motorcycles, and initially refused to let it pass, while they tried to check with superiors by telephone, the person said. The prime minister’s security detail cut the wait short by bodily lifting the guards and carrying them to the side of the road, and then pushing up the heavy gate blocking the entrance road.

Mr. Najib was given Mr. Borodai’s cellphone number by someone whom Mr. Borodai trusted and who vouched for Mr. Najib, according to Malaysian officials. They declined to say whether the intermediary who set up the initial call was Russian.

Malaysia has long sought to avoid conspicuously taking sides in the rivalries among the United States, Russia and China, and many of its citizens are wary of American influence. While the Netherlands is a member of NATO, which many pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine see as a threat, Malaysia is a distant Southeast Asian nation that has stayed largely silent on the turmoil there.

Russia has invested years of effort in building up its relations with Malaysia, in which aviation has played a major role for more than a decade. Malaysia agreed to buy 18 Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia in May 2003, in a deal worth nearly $1 billion. In exchange, Russia agreed to train and transport to space Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon by profession who traveled to the International Space Station in 2007 and became a celebrated national hero, not least because he observed the Ramadan fasts in space under the guidance of a large team of religious experts.

At a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin in Vladivostok in 2012, Mr. Najib noted that he personally oversaw the deal for the Sukhoi jets, and added, “The time has come for us to broaden the relationship and to look into new areas of cooperative relationship with you.” The deal to recover the recorders and remains from Flight MH 17 may be the richest political dividend Mr. Najib has yet reaped from that relationship.

Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley reported from Kuala Lumpur, and David M. Herszenhorn from Kiev, Ukraine

 

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results


July 24, 2014

MH17: Prime Minister’s Soft Diplomacy and Decisive Action brought results

Speech at the Emergency Session of Parliament (July 23, 2014)

Prime Minister Najib in ParliamentPrime Minister Najib Addressing MPs on MH17

“No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia…

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire”.–PM Najib Razak

MR Speaker Sir,

At about 11pm on Thursday, July 17, 2014, corresponding to 19 Ramadan, 1435, Hijrah, a date that will not be easily forgotten, I received a telephone call from the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof, about MH17.

As it turned out, even before the MH370 tragedy had abated, the unwelcome MH17 tragedy had happened.With divine provision, a tragic event had taken place. The world, in general, and Malaysians, in particular, were shocked by the unexpected tragedy of the reported crash of a Boeing 777-200 commercial aircraft of Malaysia Airlines, flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

In less than two hours, I arrived at the MAS operations rooms at KLIA (KL International Airport), along with several ministers. We were briefed by the MAS management on what had happened. Without wasting any time, I was in touch with several world leaders, among them President Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine.

At about 2am, I decided to send a special team to the crash site. Then, at about 5am, I called a special press conference to inform Malaysians and the rest of the world about what was happening at that time.

For the information of this august house, the flight had left (Amsterdam) at about 12.15pm local time and was scheduled to arrive at KLIA at 6.10am Malaysian time. The flight had on board 298 people, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew (members). Forty-three of them, including two infants, were Malaysians.  Malaysia Airlines confirmed having been informed by the Ukraine Air Traffic Control that it lost contact with flight MH17 at 10.15pm local time, about 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Message of Condolence

On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed profound sadness over the tragedy that had befallen the passengers and crew of flight MH17.

 I also extended condolences and profound sympathy as well, especially to all the family members, friends and acquaintances of the victims. It is hoped that all of them will remain steadfast and resolute in facing this most challenging moment of grief.

The government also declared that from 18 to 21 July, 2014, the national flag will be flown at half mast nationwide.Let us Muslims say the Al-Fatihah and the non-Muslims, observe a moment’s silence.

Important Facts

Some important facts for the scrutiny of this august house.

 Fact No. 1: The total number of deaths. For your information, Malaysia Airlines listed the passengers and crew based on nationality. The updated list as at July 18, 2014, based on nationality is as follows:

Netherlands — 192

Malaysia — 43 (including 15 crew and two infants)

Australia — 27

Indonesia — 12 (including one infant)

United Kingdom — 10 (including one dual national from UK/South Africa)

Germany — four

Belgium — four

The Philippines — three

The United States — one (dual national United States/Netherlands)

Canada — one

New Zealand — one

This brings the number of people killed to 298, comprising 283 passengers and 15 crew. The number includes 83 innocent children and three infants.

Fact No. 2: The MAS flight path was certified safe. As for the flight path used by MAS, I have to explain that the flight path of MH17 was one that was certified safe and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, or ICAO, as well as Ukraine, the air space of which it traversed. Furthermore, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, had also stated that the air space traversed by the flight was safe.

For example, 15 of the 16 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines used this route to get to Ukraine. European airlines also used the same flight path and traversed the same air space. In fact, several hours before the tragic incident, several commercial aircraft of several Asian nations also used the same flight path.

For your information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted a report from Eurocontrol, 400 commercial flights, among them 150 international flights, traverse the air space over eastern Ukraine daily. In fact, two days before the tragedy, 75 flights of various airlines used the flight path that was used by flight MH17. Even on that day, flight MH17 did not receive any instruction to alter the flight path.

Fact No. 3: MAS flight in good physical and technical condition. As for the physical and technical condition of the flight, MAS issued a statement on July 18, 2014, verifying that flight MH17 was in good condition. MAS also confirmed that all systems of the flight were in good working order, particularly the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and the transponder.

Fact No. 4: International Law. The shooting down of the aircraft was not only a cruel act, but one that violated the principles of international law by way of the Convention on International Civil Aviation or better known as the Chicago Convention and which is recognised by the United Nations as per Resolution 1067 (1996).

In this matter, the UN had unanimously approved a resolution to urge the separatists to provide unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. It also called for all military activity, including by the armed groups, to be stopped immediately in the vicinity of the site to enable the international investigation to be conducted in safety.

I have instructed the Attorney-General to look into this matter thoroughly to ensure that any action to be taken by Malaysia is in accordance with the international law applied in matters of such a nature.

Malaysia’s Demands and Call

For the information of honourable MPs (Members of Parliament), on July 17, 2014, several hours after the crash of MH17, officials in the United States and Ukraine claimed that the flight was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

If these claims are true, we strongly condemn this inhuman, uncivilised, barbaric, savage and irresponsible act by those who are believed to have shot down the ill-fated flight MH17.Nevertheless, for the moment, we are not pointing fingers at anyone until the facts have been obtained.

I am made to understand that the region where the tragedy occurred is under the control of a separatist group. Nevertheless, I felt angry and disappointed over two matters:

Firstly, when I was informed that they did not regard the crash site as a prohibited area and did not adhere to the international standard practice of ensuring that evidence is not removed or impaired.

Secondly, the delay in attending to the tragedy, which resulted in the failure to accord the bodies of the victims the honour and dignity they rightly deserve.

In addition, Malaysia called on the ICAO, as the guardian of civil aviation security worldwide, to issue a resolution strongly condemning the attack on flight MH17, as had been done in cases of a similar nature. Furthermore, the shooting down of the flight MH17 commercial aircraft is a most cruel act and a brutal and violent crime.

As stated in Annex 13 of the ICAO Convention, the government of Ukraine has to assume responsibility to undertake an investigation as to the cause of the crash. A report on the investigation has to be given to the next of kin of the victims as provided for in the ICAO guidelines.

Of course, Malaysia would offer unwavering support to participate in this investigation. For the record, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, and Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, were among those who had gone to Kiev, Ukraine.

Malaysia also welcomes the call for an investigation by an independent international team on the crash and urges all quarters to cooperate to ensure that the probe can be completed. We demand and support an independent international investigation into the tragedy. Those responsible for this tragedy have to be brought to justice.

Last Friday, we sent a plane with a special team of 133 people, comprising a SMART (Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue) team, technical officers, a medical team and Jakim officers to the crash site. A special investigation team was also set up, comprising representatives from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States.

MAS sent 40 staff to Amsterdam to provide assistance and moral support to the families of the victims.Furthermore, I received many telephone calls from world leaders who expressed their support and sympathy and promised to extend aid in whatever form that they can. On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I expressed thanks for the support they and the world community have extended to Malaysia.

MH17 Crash Site 3The Crash Site

Three Successful Deals

In principle, the treatment accorded to the bodies of the victims was wrong, but following consultation with the head of the separatist group, we managed to avert further damage. It is unnecessary for us to announce every action taken. Sometimes we must work quietly in the service of a better outcome, especially when negotiating with the head of a separatist group, with the desire to ensure that the bodies of the victims can be retrieved and given a decent burial, even though time has passed.

On Monday, July 21, 2014, under difficult circumstances, I was forced to make a risky decision in the best interests of the bodies of the victims of the tragedy and to be certain of the reality of what had happened.In this matter, I consulted Alexander Borodai, the head of the pro-Russia separatist group, because the region is under their control. The consultation yielded three deals:

First, all the recovered bodies of the MH17 tragedy victims, estimated to be 282, were taken from Torev to Kharkiv in Ukraine by train before being flown to Amsterdam, along with six members of the Malaysian recovery team at 1am on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, and arriving there at 11am local time. Following forensic work in Amsterdam, the bodies of all Malaysians will be brought back to our country as soon as possible. I undertook to do this and will do everything I can because I had promised the families of the victims when I met them that, as far as possible, the victims can be laid to rest before Syawal. Only then will the families of the victims have peace of mind.

Second, the two black boxes of flight MH17 were handed over to the Malaysian team in Donetsk at 9pm Ukraine time on Monday, July 21, 2014. Without the black boxes, it will be difficult for us to carry on with the investigation. The black boxes have been handed over to the investigation team led by the Netherlands and will be sent to London for further investigation.

Third, all the members of the independent international team of investigators are to be given access to the crash site and a guarantee of safety to undertake a comprehensive probe into the MH17 tragedy. However, this has yet to be fully realised.

Solidarity and Unity

MH17We Malaysians Mourn the Loss of Lives on MH17 and MH370

In fact, this has been a very tragic calendar (year) for us. Nevertheless, in this difficult period in the month of Ramadan, we must strengthen our solidarity and unity in facing this situation. God willing.  No words can describe the grief. Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Thus, in facing these difficult times, regardless of our political and religious background, we must remain united as one nation, 1Malaysia.

Therefore, do not engage in any speculation that can cause embarrassment to the victims of the tragedy and their families. This is not the time to splash on the social media stories which can be factually wrong or false.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Opposition leader (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and the Gelang Patah MP (Lim Kit Siang) and the leaders of other political parties for having likened the MH17 tragedy to genocide and for calling for the murderers to be brought to justice.

Nevertheless, while we are enveloped by sorrow and profound grief, we have never forgotten the misfortune that has befallen our Palestinian brothers in Gaza who have lost many innocent lives as a result of cruelty and injustice. Therefore, we call for an immediate ceasefire.

Conclusion

Although we have done a lot, much more remains to be done. We may be up against challenges and various obstacles, but we will never give up halfway.

As such, we urge that the investigation must be conducted by an independent team to ascertain the cause of the crash of flight MH17. Some questions demand immediate answers, such as to whether the aircraft was fired upon with a guided missile, who was the perpetrator of the crime and what was the motive for the attack.

Furthermore, was the shooting premeditated, with the intention to shoot down a commercial flight, or a mistake? All of these require clear and authentic proof.

No matter what we do, we cannot bring back the dead. Imagine how a 1-year-old child will grow up without the love of its father, namely Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi, the co-pilot who perished in the tragedy. More saddening is that the mother has lost her husband.

What about the fate and future of Amarpal Singh? How depressed will this medical student be whose cost of study had been borne by his father who was a victim of the tragedy?Just imagine what grandmother Jamillah Noriah Abang Anuar of Kuching, Sarawak, would be feeling, having lost six members of her beloved family.

Personally, I am able to feel what they are going through. My step-grandmother was one of the victims. More saddening is the fact the world has lost a group of scientists who were involved in AIDS and HIV research. These people were on their way to attend the International AIDS Conference in Australia.In fact, there are many more stories that I cannot mention here. For example, the Netherlands lost 192 of its people in the tragedy. The number is very large when taken as a ratio of the population of that country.

I am of the opinion that geopolitical upheavals do not benefit anyone. They just make people suffer when they lose their loved ones and the world stands to lose competent human beings.

As for the families of the victims of the MH17 tragedy, I wish to tell them not to be worried because, so long as we do not have the answers, we will not stop seeking the truth. No matter how difficult it may be, we will demand justice for the sake of the families of the victims.

Let us walk through this difficult time together, united in grief. Hopefully, God will give us assistance and enlightenment for a solution in the end.Above all, during this blessed final days of Ramadan, let us indulge in more prayers and hope that God will guide us to a solution through our efforts. We must believe that any period of hardship that we pass through will be followed closely by a period of ease, as set by God.

 http://www.nst.com.my/node/16916 –BERNAMA

dm-1205Our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has shown that when he takes charge, matters can be resolved expeditiously. As in all things, leadership with decisive action matters. I congratulate him for a task well done. He must now know that he has to take charge in times of crisis. More of the same, Sir, when crisis and tragedy beckons. Take charge and Malaysians will stand with you. Together, we shall overcome as we Malaysians are a strong people in body and spirit.–Din Merican

 

NZ rebuts Anifah, reveals M’sia wanted charges dropped


July 1, 2014

NZ rebuts Anifah, reveals M’sia wanted charges dropped

Let us be clear that Rizalman Ismail is a warrant officer in the Ministry of Defence, not a Wisma Putra man. That said he is a disgrace, if the charges of sexual assault can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. He must now face the consequences of his indiscretion. We have had enough of bad news, and this one has the effect of tarnishing the image of Foreign Service, requiring the intervention of our Foreign Minister. I think this is another jinx on our Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein of the MH370 and Lahad Datu fame.–Din Merican

http://www.malaysiakini.com

AnifahAmanHours after Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman played down accusations the country was out to protect a Malaysian diplomat accused of sexual assault, the New Zealand government has turned the tables on him. New Zealand released documents rebutting Anifah’s claim that Wellington had offered to allow Muhmmad Rizalman Ismail to return home despite the alleged offence.

The documents also show that the Malaysian side asked for the charges of burglary and assault with the intent to rape against Rizalman to be dropped.One of the two documents released is the Malaysian High Commission’s letter to New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

“The High Commission of Malaysia would like to also seek the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand and the New Zealand police to kindly consider sealing all documentation pertaining to the above mentioned matter and withdrawing all charges against Muhammad Rizalman Ismail,” reads the May 21 letter, sighted by Malaysiakini.

The letter was in response to another letter from MFAT, dated May 10 to the Malaysian High Commission requesting that Rizalman’s diplomatic immunity be waived for him to face legal action in New Zealand.

“The High Commission of Malaysia has the honour to inform that the government of Malaysia will not waive the personal immunity granted to Muhammad Rizalman Ismail and has decided that he should be repatriated to Malaysia as soon as possible.

“Should the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand accept this arrangement, the High Commission proposes to send him and his family back home on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at 1.15pm by MH130,” says the letter from the Malaysian mission.

At a press conference at Wisma Putra (right) in Putrajaya earlier today, Anifah claimed Malaysia had met with New Zealand officials on May 12 and offered to waive Rizalman’s immunity but their counterparts had offered an “alternative” to allow him to return home.

Anifah also said Rizalman who is a warrant officer, will face the Military Court in Malaysia. The documents were released in Wellington today, upon a request by Fairfax Media, under New Zealand’s freedom of information law.

‘NZ says it’s a misunderstanding’

Another document released by Wellington is the May 10 letter by MFAT to the Malaysian High Commission. No other document pertaining to the events between May 10 and May 21 were released. However, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully this evening sought to defuse the tension, describing this as a “misunderstanding”.

McCully clarified that the formal letter may have clearly stated New Zealand’s intention of wanting Rizalman’s immunity lifted but matters were less clear in informal discussions.

“MFAT has this evening provided me with the correspondence between New Zealand and Malaysian officials on this matter. While the formal request is absolutely unambiguous in seeking the lifting of immunity, it is now clear to me that officials engaged in informal communications over what is a complex case, in a manner that would have been ambiguous to the Malaysian government,” he was quoted as saying by stuff.co.nz.

His remarks came shortly after speaking to Anifah this evening to clarify the “misunderstanding”. McCully added he believed Malaysia acted in good faith and its refusal to lift the immunity was out of a desire to allow Malaysia’s defence chief to deal with Rizalman, but this would still be an outcome acceptable to New Zealand.

NZ Police want offences prosecuted

MFAT’s May 10 letter reads: “The New Zealand Police believes that it is in the public interest to prosecute these offences due to the serious nature of the offending by Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail and has accordingly requested the Ministry to pursue appropriate avenues to enable a prosecution against Mr Rizalman to proceed.

“In order for the New Zealand Police to proceed with the prosecution of Mr Rizalman, the Ministry therefore wishes to seek from the Malaysian authorities a waiver of the personal immunity granted to Mr Ismail under Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and of the personal inviolability granted under Article 29.”

Rizalman, who is a defence staff assistant, was arrested by New Zealand Police on May 9, after he followed a 21-year-old woman home and allegedly assaulted her, purportedly with the intention to commit rape. He was charged on May 10 for burglary and assault with intent to commit rape, both of which carry a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

The high-profile case was only made public in New Zealand last Saturday. The New Zealand press was only allowed to name Rizalman today, after a High Court judge in the country’s judge lifted a suppression order on his details, which were obtained a day after the case went public.

When contacted, Anifah told Malaysiakini to refer to McCully’s statement claiming “misunderstanding” in formal communications.

Letters released by Wellington

May 10 – Letter from High Commission of Malaysia

May 21 – Letter from NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Malaysia not a secular state : says who ?


Malaysia not secular state, gov’t says
By Ram Anand

posted from Taipei, Taiwan

Jun 17, 2014

PARLIAMENT The government has stressed that Malaysia is not a secular state due to the special position of Islam in the framework of the federal constitution.

Article 3(1) and 50.4 percent of the 30 million population in Malaysia being Muslim do not make the Federation an Islamic state.

Article 3(1) and 50.4 percent of the 30 million population in Malaysia being Muslim do not make the Federation an Islamic state.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said so in a written answer to Oscar Ling Chai Yew (DAP-Sibu) in Parliament last week.

Jamil Khir also stressed that the constitution does not provide for the civil court to have jurisdiction over matters under the purview of the Syariah Court.

“Regarding the question as to whether Malaysia is a secular state or an Islamic country, it is stressed here that Malaysia is not a secular country,” Jamil Khir said in his answer.

He said that this was based on “history” where Malaysia was established based an Islamic sultanate government and Malay sultans are heads of Islam for the respective states.

“This is further strenghtened by Article 3 of the federal constitution, which clearly states that Islam is the religion for the federation,” Jamil Khir further said.

Jamir Khir said that secular countries do not have a religion as the country’s religion.

Ling had asked Jamil Khir about the implementation of hudud and and whether Malaysia is a secular or Islamic state.

However, Jamil Khir stressed that the government is still studying the feasibility of implementing hudud in Malaysia.

 

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.

image

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@http://www.thesundaily.my

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: bmoses@thesundaily.com

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: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/malay-muslims-and-religious-apartheid-zuhairy-fauzy

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)@www.malaysiakini.com

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)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

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

BY RITA JONG
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.

MORE TO COME.

Say NO to TPPA–Press Release


August 24, 2013

Say NO to TPPA–Press Release


MEMORANDUM

KEKALKAN KEMERDEKAAN, TOLAK TPPA

SAY NO TO CORPORATE COLONISATION, SAY NO TO TPPA

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.

 KEKALKAN KEMERDEKAAN, TOLAK TPPA

SAY NO TO CORPORATE COLONISATION, SAY NO TO TPPA

 

BANTAH TPPA

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) @http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

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.

KJ1

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@http://www.malaysiakini.com

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.

WINNERS

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.

LOSERS

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.

UMNO and BN

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@http://www.malaysiakini.com

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
razak@thestar.com.my

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 (1malaysia.com.my/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 Raslan@www.thestar.com.my

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) @http://www.nytimes.com

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.
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