December 30, 2008

by Din Merican

Yes, friends of mine have called to ask what is going on in Parti KeADILan Rakyat. They have long lost faith in the worth of reading and watching the mainstream media. Last night I watched TV3 Prime News which made fun of Anwar Ibrahim’s 916 takeover of the Federal Government with a clip of lame duck Prime Minister Badawi’s comments on the matter.

Yet, the morning papers, The Star and Utusan Malaysia especially, are addictive as nicotine and though they may have little faith in their credibility, my friends still read them. Hence they cannot avoid the hype given to the alleged turbulence in PKR Selangor and by extension Pakatan Rakyat Selangor, particularly in The Star. And they cannot resist yielding to the temptation to ask people whom they think ought to know what is going on.

Some are probably put off by my nonchalance about the whole thing. A few are not amused when I contend that it is a crisis in subprime issues. From some time last year, we began hearing the phrase “crisis in subprime loans” in connection with the plague of bad loans meted out to weak borrowers in the US housing market. We now know that this plague, together with inflated stock prices, has triggered a concatenation that has ramified into a crisis of Great Depression (1929-31)-like proportions in the United States, the world’s biggest economy. Thus “sub prime” became part of the lexicon of economic and political pundits. For a fuller treatment of this crisis, please read Nobel Laureate in Economics 2008 Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.

Allow me to make one thing clear: I do not deprecate the troubles we have in PKR Selangor and PR Selangor by borrowing the word “subprime” to describe the issues whose inflammation, aided and abetted by a hostile mainstream media, has led to a war of words between some PKR and PR interlocutors in Selangor. But these issues –alleged tardiness by the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in reacting sympathetically to storm victims, culpable municipal dismantling of a Hindu temple, relocation of a bus-cum-taxi terminal from one part to another part of Klang — are local issues, not questions of national significance.

Am I being frivolous? Am I nonchatantly playing down issues that may be small but which can serve as a microcosm of how PKR leaders deal with matters that test their mettle to govern such that if they fluff these tests, they will flunk the bigger challenges to their capacity for effective and farsighted governance? I think not.

We in PKR know that local issues are important. We must be solicitous about them and their impact on the ordinary citizen. We must handle local issues with care, or risk alienating the common person who collectively in a democratic system of government holds the reins of power in our country.

Having said that, I hold that I am not being academic when I claim that the core of many of the issues whose alleged mishandling has riled a couple of Selangor PR representatives can be put down as simply one of trade-offs: how much you will give up of a good thing A to realise how much of a good thing B.

It is an intellectual-cum-imaginative exercise, a way of looking at issues and choices in a multi-angled manner, one that recognises that in public policy, even with respect to local issues, there are few completely self-contained situations. When such an approach is taken, you develop a give-and-take attitude that garners satisfaction from the fact that what you lose on the roundabouts, you may gain on the straights. This tack keeps you flexible, agile,focussed and poised to sweep the advantages that accrue to a patiently and intelligently constructed position.

I hold that this is the attitude of a good people’s representative. Such a person rejoices in compromise, is patient when baulked or stalled,and is preservering in his long term aims that have the common good at heart. Such a representative eschews ultimatums, is well honed in persuasion skills, and seeks to make adversaries his friends.

Happy New Year and All the best. May Almighty God protect our country, you and I, our families and friends.

Selangor: Transformation takes a little longer, but the Possible is being done

Rumblings against Khalid

Stanley Koh | December 29, 2008

By governing standards, some may agree that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition rule in Selangor is still on a learning curve since the political


tsunami on March 8 when the opposition parties of PKR, DAP and PAS snatched control of five states from the Barisan Nasional.

But that should not be cause for much comfort as lately, leadership fissures and cracks are appearing in the Pakatan rule in Selangor.

Recent squabbling through the media among various Pakatan leaders in Selangor and a PKR state leader threatening to resign has prompted the party’s deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali to call for an urgent political bureau meeting next week to resolve the related issues.

bersih round table 100207 syed husin ali“I urge various leaders in Pakatan to stop taking their differences and conflicts to the media,” Syed Husin (left), who is also PKR disciplinary board chairperson, said in a statement issued to the press recently.

Principally involving certain Selangor PKR and DAP state leaders over local issues which have been widely reported, some PKR sources diagnosing the latest ‘leadership ailment’ in Selangor seem to agree that the tiffs are just the tip of the iceberg.

Some sources within PKR reason that strong political leadership at the top level in Selangor would have prevented some of the ‘hiccups’ from currently taking place.

A high party source confirms the PKR grassroots leaders in Selangor are blaming Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s lack of political acumen in resolving the on-going Klang Sentral Terminal issue together with other matters which have snowballed into the PKR’s Kapar Member of Parliament S Manikavasagam threatening to resign.

The latest episodes seem to highlight the gathering momentum of dissatisfaction against Khalid’s role and performance as the menteri besar of Selangor.

These frustrations and disillusionment within PKR ranks are also likely to be raised at a party supreme council meeting slated for the middle of next month.

“For a start, there is this perception that Selangor under PKR leadership is just not moving ahead compared to other states under Pakatan leadership,” a PKR insider who declined to be named, said.

Blamed even for meritocracy

“Certainly, Selangor has not come out with any development plans or vision except for ad hoc projects. Besides the obsession with free water, the review of certain land dealings and a proposal for a pig-framing area, the menteri besar is perceived to be lacking in political will or is simply showing apathy in attempting to rejuvenate Selangor-state-owned companies.

“He should remove the deadwood in the 100 state-owned companies including incumbent board members who have failed to perform.

“The lack of strategic economic initiatives and a lack of a clearly-defined blueprint for Selangor is just one of the many fundamental weaknesses of the PKR leadership under Khalid,” the source said.

Malaysiakini, however, learnt that an economic and social development blueprint for Selangor was in fact drawn up as early as May this year but for unknown reasons was neither implemented nor officially announced.

Despite these grouses directed at Khalid, the MB has also won some favourable reviews in comparison to his BN predecessor. DAP’s MP for Petaling Utara Tony Pua reasoned that Khalid’s unpopularity within his party stemmed from the fact that the Selangor menteri besar has refused to play political patronage.

khalid ibrahim selangor state budget pc 120808 02In fact, one of the major criticisms directed at Khalid (right) was his refusal to give ample opportunities for loyal PKR supporters (on the basis of meritocracy and not cronyism) to partake in development activities in the state.

“Hence, certain quarters view Khalid as more of a corporate leader rather than a shrewd politician but there is nothing wrong with this,” Pua reasoned.

“Under his leadership, there are more people-oriented community projects like the ‘Warga Emas’ (insurance for elderly) and more education scholarships for children from poor families,” said the DAP leader.

Brushing aside complaints against Khalid’s leadership, Pua added, “The bulk of the opposition leaders do not understand business management. The transition from street protests to understanding the operation of businesses is a big jump’.

Pua also argued that Khalid has been singled out for criticism compared to other Pakatan chiefs in the smaller or lesser developed states. This was because Selangor was one of the biggest industrial or money-spinning states.

“Hence, the expectation from him (Khalid) to perform is so much higher,” Pua concluded.

Determination to move forward

Criticisms against Khalid from within his party’s rank-and-file have nevertheless been gathering momentum. As one PKR insider recently confided, “Patience for Khalid is really running thin”.

According to the source, time is running out with renewed speculation of a possible snap polls in the third quarter of next year following a changeover in the UMNO leadership. PKR is understandably jittery over poor performance and undelivered electoral promises.

One of the complaints directed against Khalid was his lack of political will to implement a declaration of assets by all Selangor state executive councillors. A disillusioned PKR party supporter said, “The excuse he (Khalid) gave, something about security reasons, is unacceptable.”

“There is definitely a consensus within the party ranks that Selangor must be governed well and Khalid’s performance will inevitably reflect upon PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

teresa kok sues chamil waraya utusan malaysia court 121208 03“Some are already saying that Anwar’s leadership is on the line. If he (Anwar) cannot govern Selangor well, how is he going to govern the whole country?” he added.

Another DAP leader supportive of Khalid’s leadership was Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (left) who said that sometimes it was not fair to push the blame to the Selangor menteri besar.

“Tackling the (Selangor) state bureaucrats who for decades have been under BN rule is not an easy task. Some welcome changes while others resist the changes and are not as cooperative,” she said.

Some top PKR officials are facing pressure from the public as well as from within the party that Selangor under Pakatan rule must dynamically move forward with or without Khalid at the helm of the state leadership.

This determination is not likely to go unnoticed in the months ahead.

“Election campaign promises must be kept. There must be a speedy implementation of environmental ‘green’ zones and an economic blueprint with a vision before the next general election,” a party source said.

“Otherwise, we in the PKR leadership in Selangor will merely be a trespassers before BN takes back Selangor,” said a PKR leader who in the same breath said that he hoped his prophecy would not come true.

Malaysiakini’s Top 10 News of 2008

December 29, 2008

Groundbreaking change does not happen overnight, at least not in Malaysia where it takes a special blend of circumstances to rouse people to fury.


That process started late last year and spilled over into this year. From then, it was only a matter of time until pent-up frustration burst. And it did.

History was made, but it did not stop there. It has been an exhilarating and inspiring year – it will be a long time before anyone climbs down from the emotional high.

Counting down, we take you through the best and the worst of 2008.

10 cheras bandar mahkota grand saga road debacleBreaking down barriers

It started off as a lonely crusade by residents against a highway concessionaire, but ended up in a power tussle at the very top that has ended relatively happily-ever-after.

Flashback to 2005 when determined residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras began their stand-off against an unwavering Grand Saga Sdn Bhd.

The company built a concrete barrier across an access road to a new highway. Residents were forced to take a longer route out of their housing estate and through traffic jams – incidentally via the toll booths – to get to the highway.

Forming an action committee, they filed a suit against the company. To get their point across, no fewer than 18 protests were held at the site of the barricade, drawing the police to ‘dispersal duty’ including arrests.

The ding-dong situation came to a head after the March 8 general election. The change of government in Selangor to one under Pakatan Rakyat was the ray of light the residents needed.

Documents showed that the barricade was on state land, so officials ordered that it be dismantled. Residents tore it down with alacrity on April 21, only for Grand Saga to rebuild it two weeks later, under the supervision of some 200 police personnel.

Clashes ensued, the worst of which occurred on May 27 when more than 10 people were seriously injured. Technician Chang Jiun Haur alleged he was repeatedly beaten by police personnel.

Police countered that Chang had run over an officer while leaving the scene in his car, and investigated him for attempted murder. However, he was then charged with reckless driving.

The Selangor government’s intervention produced a U-turn in the federal government’s position, which had been widely seen as supportive of the highway concessionaire up to then.

Visiting the scene after the fracas, Works Minister Mohd Zin Mohamed announced that the access road would stay open until the court disposes of the residents’ legal suit.

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has held an inquiry into the allegation of “excessive force” used against Chang. Its report is still pending.

WHAT’S NEXT: It will be an anxious wait for residents in general and Chang in particular, as the saga winds down.

09 altantuya murder caseAltantuya still haunts us all

Who was involved in the killing of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu? Not political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, according to the Shah Alam High Court which acquitted him of abetment on Oct 31 without calling for his defence.

The prosecution decided not to appeal, a first in such cases. But lawyer Karpal Singh, who is holding a watching brief for Altantuya’s family, has filed for review of the judgment.

In the meantime, two ‘elite squad’ police personnel – Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar – will have to make their defence against the primary charge of murder.

Two years after Altantuya’s death in 2006, the case still threw up surprises. Opposition MPs even took the matter to Parliament, seeking unsuccessfully to file a special motion to debate it in view of the allegations that have surfaced.

Private investigator P Balasubramaniam caused a sensation with details of his statutory declaration (SD), which alleged that deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak had links with Altantuya and that she had demanded RM500,000 in commission for closing a deal on the purchase of submarines.

The next day, though,  Balasubramaniam retracted the document in a second SD. Najib duly denied any relationship with Altantuya or that pressure had been exerted on Balasubramaniam to withdraw his allegations.

As police began a probe into the conflicting SDs, Balasubramaniam and his family went ‘missing’ but were later confirmed to be living in a neighbouring country.

Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin added to the mix with a purported expose claiming that Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor had been at the scene of the crime with two army personnel. Rosmah denied this and the army officers are suing Raja Petra for defamation.

The irrepressible blogger then revealed that senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had exchanged text-messages with Najib, in seeking Razak’s release while under remand.

Following his acquittal, Razak rose to the defence of Najib and Rosmah, saying they were not involved in the case – and that the issue had nothing to do with the Scorpene submarine purchase.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hope is ebbing that the ‘real’ story behind the gruesome incident will ever come out. But there is still the rest of the murder trial to go, alongside the police probe and defamation suit.

08 chua soi lekChua rises from the ashes

In January, then MCA vice-president Dr Chua Soi Lek saw his political career end abruptly as he owned up to his part in a sex scandal that had been secretly video-taped and circulated earlier.

Admitting “I am the man in the tape”, he initially said he would allow the prime minister and MCA president Ong Ka Ting to decide his fate, hinting that he was a victim of a political conspiracy within the party.

But in less than 24 hours, he announced his immediate resignation from all party and government posts.

There was no writing him off. In the party election 10 months later, he made an incredible comeback as he was elected deputy president.

He faced off main rivals secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan and vice-president Donald Lim on Oct 18, winning with a mere 114 votes.

Chua had the general election results to thank for this, with the rank-and-file screaming for accountability over MCA’s abject performance as well as for reforms.

WHAT’S NEXT: The immediate question is how MCA will handle this hot potato, for he seeks to return to the cabinet. However, his ‘tainted’ past and rivalry with new party president Ong Tee Keat stand in the way.

07 judiciary ex gratiaHits and misses for judiciary

Try as they might, politicians were unable to get it right about the judiciary. For every apparent step forward, there has been a hidden step backwards – from the appointment of a new chief justice to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill.

Zaki Azmi replaced Abdul Hamid Mohamad as chief justice in October, but has been dogged by senior lawyer and Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Karpal Singh who is most unhappy over the appointment.

This follows Zaki’s alleged admission of ‘bribery’ as a practising lawyer, although he has clarified that he was misquoted in a news report.

Also drawing criticism was the government’s ex-gratia payment of more than RM10 million to six senior judges – including former Lord President Salleh Abas – who were sacked in 1998. It appeared that offering them an apology would have been better appreciated.

In December, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tabled the JAC Bill, dubbed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz as the “first step to judicial reform”.

Others were less certain, but their reservations did not stop the Dewan Rakyat from rushing it through.

During the year, too, Sarawak High Court judge Ian Chin made the astounding revelation that then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had subjected some judges to “boot camp treatment” and had intimidated judges into making pro-government decisions.

This led to a public exchange between the two, ending with the former opting for early retirement in view of the stress suffered.

WHAT’S NEXT: Now that the JAC enactment has killed off the dream of independence, will the judiciary have sufficient pride to redeem itself without ‘external’ help?

06 isa arrestPolice ‘protection’ for the vocal

THE ISSUE: To say that the police took enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to ridiculous extremes this year would be an under-statement.

Even by its standards, the force did not cover itself in glory when it hastily detained Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng after her report on an incendiary speech by Bukit Bendera Umno division head Ahmad Said in Penang.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, at one point, said this was for “her own protection” as death threats had been received. But, giving in to instant pressure from many quarters – including Barisan Nasional component parties – the police released Tan within 18 hours.

DAP’s Seputeh parliamentarian Teresa Kok and Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin, were held for longer periods after their arrest on Sept 12. Raja Petra won freedom through a rare victory in court.

The arrests triggered a series of protests and candlelight vigils by civil society groups, while BN component party PPP threatened to leave the ruling coalition if there are no substantive amendments to the ISA by the next general election.

Worse for the BN, de facto law minister and prominent UMNO member Zaid Ibrahim resigned to protest the arrests. His subsequent presence at opposition-led events resulted in him being sacked from the party.

WHAT NEXT: The BN has ‘no intention’ of amending the ISA, let alone repealing it. The ball is back in the court of those who want to see the last of it.

05 petrol fuel price hikeFuel price highs and lows

The government raised the petrol price to RM2.70 in June – a jump of 40.6 percent that left consumers severely traumatised as the direct and indirect impacts were felt.

The decision was made in order to cut spiraling expenditure on subsidies, said to amount to RM56 billion this year, and was the latest in a series of price hikes that began last year.

Bewildered analysts and economists wondered why Malaysia, a net producer of crude oil, was withdrawing subsidies at a time when national oil and gas company Petronas was making record profits.

Opposition parties got into stride, organising protests, even as Pakatan Rakyat claimed that it would do better as the new federal government on Sept 16.

Just two months later, the government began reducing fuel prices through a monitoring scheme based on drop in the world price. Since August, there have been seven reductions.

WHAT’S NEXT: Absolutely no cheer, as prices of essential goods are not coming down and job losses as well as falling incomes take away any relief felt by motorists.

04 anwar sodomy 2 caseDeja vu in sodomy charge

The ‘Sodomy 2.0′ version unfolded on June 28 when PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s 23-year-old former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan lodged a police report. He claimed to have been sodomised by Anwar in a condominium in Damansara.

To many, it was unreal. Ten years ago, Anwar had faced a similar charge which saw him being jailed until the conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal in 2004.

In the latest episode, he was arrested on July 16 by balaclava-clad police – a scene reminiscent of that in 1998 – but freed a day later after being questioned and made to undergo a medical examination.

His supporters claimed that the government would detain him pending trial, ostensibly to prevent his campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election. But when Anwar claimed trial on Aug 7, he was freed on a RM20,000 personal bond.

Much else has happened outside the courtroom, including the allegation that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had a ‘hidden hand’ in the matter since he had met with Saiful prior to the complaint. Najib has denied this.

Saiful’s complaint was challenged when a medical examination – done on the same day he lodged the police report – allegedly found no signs of sodomy.

He then swore on a Quran in a mosque to back his claim, but the shadow of political interference fell over this as well. The imam who witnessed the oath-taking said he was instructed to do so.

WHAT’S NEXT: The sodomy trial has not made much headway since August, as technical arguments have prevailed. The court is expected to hear the substantial arguments in the coming year.

03 pak lah najib transitionClash of the titans

Wouldn’t something be amiss in Malaysian politics if the nation’s top two leaders aren’t pitted against one another? The year did not disappoint in this respect.

BN’s disastrous showing in the March general election brought out a metaphorical keris in Umno – this time the business end of it was pointed at party president and premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Initially, it was unclear who was holding the dagger, given the groundswell of discontent over the coalition’s ‘gift’ to the opposition – four state governments, failure to re-take Kelantan and voters’ rejection of many veteran leaders.

Although ‘undur Pak Lah’ messages appeared on banners in public, Abdullah’s decimated team backed his leadership. Former party head Dr Mahathir Mohamad merely intensified the noisy bombardment from the sidelines.

Abdullah came undone when the economy came under pressure due mainly to the spike in global crude oil price and the US credit crunch. There was no hiding the resentment now.

Adding to the panic, PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim drummed up his claim of being able to take over the federal government by Sept 16. With Umno due to hold elections in December, the tussle at the top fed into the bickering at the bottom.

Abdullah finally reacted, swapping his finance portfolio for Najib’s defence portfolio and holding out the lure of direct transition to his deputy. It might have worked except that Umno vice-president and senior minister Muhyiddin Yassin took exception to the cosy arrangement.

On Sept 21, at the Umno supreme council meeting, Abdullah was confronted by the very leaders who had supported him. They pushed him to state by Oct 9 if he planned to contest the polls, before the nomination process began.

In what appears to be a face-saving move, although Abdullah claimed that it was done to prevent the rift from widening, a compromise was struck with Najib.

Polls were moved to March and Abdullah agreed to relinquish the presidency – by convention, also the premiership – to Najib if the latter had enough support in the party. Najib took the post uncontested, with 98 percent of the nominations.

WHAT’S NEXT: There is trepidation about a return to the dark days of ‘Mahathirism’ under Najib’s tenure, alongside talk that the out-manoeuvred Anwar is only biding his time to let the latter’s skeletons out of the closet. Muhyiddin’s moves merit a close watch as well.

02 permatang pauh by electionAnwar completes his comeback

The Aug 26 Permatang Pauh by-election was called after incumbent Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail of PKR vacated the parliamentary seat, so that her husband Anwar Ibrahim could return to active politics.

Dubbed as the ‘mother of all by-elections’, it was held at a time of intense speculation about a takeover of the federal government by Pakatan Rakyat through defections from ruling lawmakers.

The contest was hyped by PKR as Anwar’s ‘road to Putrajaya’, possibly as a morale booster for more BN parliamentarians to cross over to the opposition alliance.

Anwar had held the seat from 1982 but was unable to contest the 1999, 2004 and 2008 general elections due to his conviction for corrupt practice and subsequent five-year ban on participation in active politics. The prohibition was lifted in April this year.

During the 10-day campaign, BN played up the sodomy allegation against Anwar but PKR pulled out its trump card at the eleventh hour when an imam admitted that he was instructed to witness an oath-taking ceremony by accuser Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The campaign saw money pouring into the constituency from both BN and PKR.

Anwar made a triumphant return with a bigger majority of 15,671 over his  rivals – BN’s Arif Shah Omar Shah and Akim president Hanafi Hamat – and was sworn in as Opposition Leader in Parliament.

WHAT’S NEXT: Watch the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election, the second since the general election in March. Will the BN make an impact or will it see the loss of another seat?

01 general electionPublic whipping for BN

When Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the dissolution of the Parliament on Feb 13, many BN politicians thought that the 12th general election would see the ruling coalition retaining its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, Malaysians decided otherwise on March 8 after a 13-day campaign, and deprived BN of its majority in the House. The opposition won 82 out of 222 parliamentary seats, with an all-time high of 31 seats for PKR, 28 for DAP and 22 for PAS.

Equally devastating for them was that opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat won four states and retained Kelantan – all of it contributing to BN’s worst results in electoral history.

BN partners MCA, Gerakan, MIC and PPP all suffered heavy defeats, with casualties including their national leaders. Umno, which had claimed that it could win enough seats to form the federal government on its own, only won 79 seats, falling way below its projection.

Voters dealt the telling blow because of issues such as inflation, shortage of goods, fuel subsidies, rising crime, mismanagement, corruption, tainted elections and racial inequality.

Simmering anger among Indian Malaysians – long regarded as BN loyalists – resulted in a swing towards the opposition.

WHAT’S NEXT: PM-to-be Najib Abdul Razak can expect a torrid time when he takes over in March, as he faces not just political turmoil but economic uncertainty – not to mention a waiting Anwar Ibrahim.

Tomorrow: X-Files of 2008
December 31: Malaysiakini reveals Newsmaker of 2008

Reports prepared by the Malaysiakini team.

UMNO’s Money Politics behind the crossover buzz

December 29, 2008

by Din Merican

There is an undertow to the year-end holiday season, already eerily quiet from worry about scudding clouds on the economic horizon. On the grapevine the sound of the undertow seems like the buzz of money politics.

The buzz does not just issue from the party that is in the throes of an extended election process, one already described by UMNO’s disciplinary chairman as the most venal in recent history. The buzz also arises from the effort of choreographers of the leadership transition within the same party who are desperate to shore up its threadbare legitimacy. They must reckon crossovers by some opposition MPs to Barisan Nasional ranks would give badly needed credibility to a coronation oozing credibility faster than the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

Now PKR cannot cry foul if it is the target of crossover bids. That would be like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. PKR has been sedulously courting BN MPs, especially from Sabah and Sarawak, to cross over to its ranks to make a parliamentary plurality for the Pakatan Rakyat to take over the Federal government.

But nowhere in that effort were there evidence-backed claims that financial inducements were offered would-be renegades. In short, that effort was devoid of money politics, notwithstanding loudly trumpeted claims by the BN Backbenchers Chairman and his chorus boys that money indeed was offered. Had they a shred of evidence to back their claims, the ACA would have acted with unseemly haste to nail the PKR offenders. Witness how fast the ACA acted to charge two PKR state assemblymen in Perak for alleged corrupt practices in connection with a development project in the Kinta Valley.

The BN’s reciprocal attempt to induce crossovers to their side of the aisle has not exactly been fraught with claims, backed by evidence, of money offered intending renegades from the opposition. But telltale signs of BN burrowing in gaps in PKR ranks are plain to see — the sudden withdrawal of a BN election petition for the Kulim-Bandar Baru seat being case in point. Would that have happened if the PKR MP had not been in a spot of bother with his party over his strange behavior on a matter of public interest? Now you have the PKR MP for Kapar in high dudgeon over matters where, apparently, no great principle is at stake and which can be resolved in the give-and-take that is the common coin of the political realm.

To attribute PKR’s current problems with a couple of its MPs, not to mention a Deputy Chief Minister, to BN mischief would be far-fetched. But it would not be unreasonable to surmise that when and if push came to shove, they depart the PKR fold, as one at least appears adamant on doing, they would not stay unaffiliated, party-wise, for long. In that event, it would be interesting to see how they can advance their political struggle under the party of their choice, assuming of course that had an agenda consonant with PKR’s project to build an egalitarian Malaysia where sectarian concerns are subordinated to an overarching justice in which all citizens can flourish.

If the cardinal lesson of the 8th March 2009 general election was that the BN should reform or its curtains, the salient point of the subsequent nine months is that the BN will find reform as difficult as Robert Mugabe finds the notion of sharing power, leave alone relinquishing it.

This does not mean that PKR should be lackadaisical about dispute resolution structures within it; it is that departures from the party fold, not due to principle, cannot be reckoned as loss.

Enter Najib, With Baggage (From the Economist)

It should be a wake-up call for all Malaysians, particularly those who have a say in the outcome of what happens in March, to see the kind of reputation Najib Tun Razak has in the eyes of the international community. The best I have heard people say about him is that he is polished and is more decisive than the current prime minister.

Imagine walking into a negotiation as PM Najib. Let us see negotiating a bi-lateral trade agreement, or a land dispute. Or let us say we would like to secure favorable investment conditions with another country. Our next PM starts making demands. Later in the day he receives a note from someone saying that if he pushes to hard, information may come to light about some of his skeletons. The next round of negotiations he quickly rescinds his demands, capitulates, and the Malaysian people are left out to dry. Trade terms are lousy. Investment remains tilted in other country’s favour.

This is what baggage means. It is not just an embarrassment. It is bad for our country and for our people.

It is also interesting to note that one person, Dr. Terence Gomez, a political scientist, in the article believes Najib as PM will accomplish even less than Badawi by way of reform. That means less than practically zero.

Din Merican

From the Economist

A new leader mired in accusations

ONE could certainly say that Najib Razak was born to be Malaysian prime minister. He is the son of Abdul Razak, the second man to hold that job following independence from Britain, and the nephew of his successor, Hussein Onn. Elected to parliament aged 23, on his father’s death, he rose to become deputy to the present prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. However, Mr Najib, expected within months to become the country’s sixth post-independence leader, will enter under a cloud of allegations, including ones linking him to a murder case, all of which he categorically denies. But some Malaysians will be wondering if he is a fit person to lead them.

Facing a revitalised opposition, in an election earlier this year the governing coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), lost the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution. Since then, the knives have been out for Mr Badawi. Despite his efforts to cling on he is being forced to quit next March.

The contest to succeed him as party president, and thus prime minister, at first promised to be lively. But party officials, fearful of the challenge from the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim (a former UMNO deputy leader), chose to hang together rather than hang separately. By November 2nd Mr Najib had won enough nominations to block his only rival, Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, from getting on the ballot-paper.

Like Mr Badawi before him, Mr Najib comes to the job promising reforms, including of the system of preference for members of the ethnic-Malay majority for state contracts and jobs. Mr Badawi achieved little, though he allowed a bit more freedom of expression than had his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. Expectations for Mr Najib are lower still. It is possible, notes Edmund Gomez, a political scientist, that he will use the worsening economic outlook as a pretext for reverting to Mahathir-style repression.

Mr Anwar has failed to carry out his threat to topple the government through a mass defection of parliamentarians. Even so, there is a palpable FIN DE ReGIME air around UMNO. Mr Badawi, Mr Mahathir and other leaders are publicly lamenting how corruption and cronyism are rife in the party. But his opponents say Mr Najib is hardly the man to restore confidence. In the latest scandal to which they are linking him, the defence ministry (which he oversaw until recently) has deferred a big order for helicopters following questions about their high price. A parliamentary committee this week cleared the government of wrongdoing, but admitted not investigating whether “commissions” were paid.

In an earlier case, a company the opposition claimed was linked to Razak Baginda, an adviser to Mr Najib, was paid juicy fees for services provided over a contract for the purchase of French submarines. A Mongolian woman, said to have worked as a translator in the negotiations, was shot dead and her corpse destroyed with explosives in 2006. Mr Razak was put on trial over her killing, along with two policemen. The case has dragged on for months and seen various odd goings-on, including changes of judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers at the start of the trial. A private detective signed a statutory declaration implicating Mr Najib, retracted it the next day, saying it had been made under duress. Calls by the victim’s family for Mr Najib to testify were rejected. On October 31st the judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to make a prima facie case against Mr Razak.

The policemen’s trial will continue. A blogger[Raja Petra Kamaruddin of Malaysia-Today] who linked Mr Najib’s wife to the case is on trial for criminal libel. None of this, however, seems likely to interfere with Mr Najib’s accession to the prime minister’s job. A bigger threat may yet emerge from the resurgent opposition and Mr Anwar, who nurtures a long-thwarted ambition to take the job himself.

ISSUE ON KAPAR Member of Parliament

December 28, 2008

Media Statement

I wish to urge and plead to various leaders in Pakatan to stop taking their differences and conflicts through the media, especially the BN government controlled ones. This includes not only the Selangor MB and the Kapar MP, but also the Selangor Speaker and the Klang MP.

They should sit down to discuss and settle these differences and conflicts internally. There are various channels and procedures existing to do so.

In the absence of the President, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and the Ketua Umum, Sdr Anwar Ibrahim, who are away until January 6, I shall be calling a meeting of the Political Bureau this Wednesday, to discuss the main and related issues in order to find suitable solution.

The issue on the Kapar MP threat to leave PKR has been blown out of proportion by certain BN government party controlled media. They have distorted statements by some Pakatan leaders in order to portray as if the opposition alliance is in disarray.

Obviously, their intention is to draw public attention away from the series of crises in the BN and also within major components of the government coalition, leading to the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Kenyataan Media

Saya ingin menggesa dan merayu kepada semua pemimpin Pakatan agar berhenti mengemukkan perbezaan serta pertentangan mereka melalui media, terutama yang dikuasai parti pemerintah BN. Ini termasuk MB Selangor serta MP Kapar dan juga Speaker Selangor serta MP Kelang.

Mereka harus duduk berbincang dan mencari jalan penyelesaian secara dalaman. Ada beberapa saluran dan prosedur bagi berbuat demikian.

Oleh kerana Presiden, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail dan Ketua Umum, Sdr Anwar Ibrahim berada di laur negara sehingga 6hb Januari, saya akan memanggil mesyuarat Biro Politik hari Rabu ini, untuk membincang semua perkara berkatan dan mencari penyelesaian.

Masalah ancaman MP Kapar hendak keluar dari PKR sudah terlalu dibesar-besarkan oleh sesetengah media yang dikuasai oleh part pemerintah. Mereka menyelewengkan sesetengah kenyataan pemimpin Pakatan untuk menunjukkan gabungan itu berpecah.

Memang jelas, tujuan mereka ialah untuk menarik perhatian awam dari kemelut dalam BN dan juga parti-parti komponen utmanya, terutama sekali menjelang pilihanraya kechil Kuala Terengganu.

Dr Syed Husin Ali
Timbalan Presiden PKR (
28 Disember 2008

Source: The Malaysian Insider (December 28, 2008)

KUALA LUMPUR, December 28 — Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali wants leaders in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact of Pas, DAP and PKR involved in a war of words to stop airing their differences in the media.

“I wish to urge and plead to the various parties in Pakatan (Rakyat) to stop taking their differences and conflicts through the media, especially the BN (Barisan Nasional) controlled ones.

“This includes not only the Selangor MB (Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) and the Kapar MP (Member of Parliament S. Manikavasagam) but also the Selangor speaker (DAP’s Teng Chang Khim) and the Klang MP (DAP’s Charles Santiago),” he said in a statement here today.

Manikavasagam announced on Friday that he would quit PKR, saying he was dissatisfied with Khalid and the way the menteri besar ran the affairs of the state.

Khalid had responded yesterday by saying that Manikavasagam was free to resign if he wanted to and that he was not interested in meeting the MP or asking him to reconsider his decision to quit.

Santiago, however, was caught in a quandary after Teng accused him of having been bought over by the BN and not behaving like an opposition leader.

“They should sit down and discuss and settle their differences and conflicts internally. There are various existing channels and procedures to do so,” said Syed Husin.

“He said that in the absence of PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who are away until Jan 6, he would call a meeting of the political bureau on Wednesday to discuss the main and related issues “in order to find a suitable solution”.

“The issue of the Kapar MP’s threat to leave PKR has been blown out of proportion by certain BN-controlled media. They have distorted statements by some Pakatan (Rakyat) leaders in order to portray as if the opposition alliance is in disarray.

“Obviously, their intention is to draw public attention away from the series of crises in the BN and also within major components of the government coalition, leading to the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election,” Syed Husin added. — Bernama