Malay Special Rights ignored,says Bumiputera Economic Congress

May 30, 2010

New Economic Model (NEM) ignores Malay Special Rights, says Bumiputera Economic Congress

By Hazlan Zakaria (May 29, 2010)

The one-day Bumiputera Economic Congress became the arena for NEM-bashing as experts slammed the New Economic Model for sidelining of Malay interests.

The Congress is organised by the Malay Consultative Council, which include Malay NGOs such as the controversial PERKASA.

National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) secretary Dr. Normah Mansur, a former University  of Malaysia don, started the ball rolling when she conceded the lack of bumiputera or Malay-specific policies in the proposed economic model soon to be finalised by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Delivering the keynote address, Normah (left) said that NEAC wanted to hear from the Congress about the need for a Malay and bumiputera agenda as it has not formulated any in the NEM.

She also stressed that the proposed NEM is not a government document but only a proposal from the economic advisory body, which effectively opened the floodgates of criticisms as panel speakers, one after another, let loose their disagreements.

Academician Kamaruddin Kachar, who chaired the panel, told the panel speakers not to be shy to tear down the NEM because the Congress was about defending the “natural rights of the Malays”.

“This is our country, pioneered by our ancestors 2,000 years ago, and defended with their blood in countless battles against invaders. Why should we be afraid? The sultans are our protectors. The Royal Malay Regiment is for the Malays.

“Should we be afraid of Samy Vellu’s son? Don’t let Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh belittle us. The Malays are not weak,” he said.

‘Special rights ignored’

To the applause and cheers of the crowd, the four-member discussion panel comprising senator Akbar Ali, former Economic Planning Unit director Hanipah Esa, economic scholar Rajini Ramlan and history professor Ramlah Adam, picked apart the policy which they argued neglected to consider the special rights of the Malays and bumiputera.

Akbar’s (left) grouses were more on the technical facets questioning what he said are the flawed basis of the NEM.

In particular, he criticised the economic policy’s over-dependence on the free market approach and the use of the single indicator of the gross domestic income, instead of a basket of indicators like household income and human development which he says would be more reflective.

He also mounted a vehement defence of the New Economic Policy and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom he said is being disparaged by the apparent attack on the economic policy which the former UMNO chief had presided over.

“The attack on NEP is actually an attack on Mahathir. He was the one who implemented it for near 20 years. These people are from the World Bank. The World Bank has always had a beef with Mahathir,” he said.

Hanipah recounted the still-fragile state of the Malays, in particular those who still need to be given protection from the other races, who are more well-versed and able in business and economic fields.

“Without clear mechanisms and action plans, the hope (to strengthen the bumiputera) will not see fruition,” she opined. Rajini said that while the NEM may help Malaysia prosper, it will incapacitate the Malays economically.”I am positive that the NEM is a long-term plan that will develop the economy, but I am pessimist about its ability to uplift the Malays.”

‘Prosperous Malaysia won’t uplift Malays’

Meanwhile, Ramlah took a more historic route, slamming the proposed economic model as breaking the promises made in the agreements signed before Merdeka.”This is an attempt to destabilise the Malay economic and political establishment,” she added, speaking of what she claimed are attempts to question the special economic rights guaranteed to the Malays.

She said that the special rights of the Malays is guaranteed in return for granting citizenship to the non-Malays.

The one-day Congress is the culmination of a series of workshops, talks, roundtable discussions and seminars by the Malay Consultative Council to scrutinise the NEM. A memorandum was later submitted to Najib, who was there to close the event tonight.The memorandum contains resolutions and recommendations passed by the congress to be included in the NEM.

Among notables at the congress were PERKASA president Ibrahim Ali, Dewan Negara president and Malay Consultative Council co-founder Abu Zahar Ujang alongside academicians, NGO representatives and veteran Malays.

Conspicuously absent, however, were bumiputera representatives from government-linked companies and the corporate world.

Malay coalition wants Najib to revamp NEM

NEM not finalised yet, says Najib

PM: Developed status by 2020 still on target


These so-called Malay nationalists failed to realise that the world is increasingly interdependent, open and competitive and that the Malaysian government cannot be asked to help the Malays in terms of subsidies , handouts and bailouts on an unending basis. The community itself which now has millionaires, entrepreneurs, professionals and skilled workers must learn to mobilise its talents and creativity to shape its own destiny in a competitive world.

PERKASA and other Malay NGOs are sectarian and racist in their approach. They should be made to realise the NEM is not against Article 153 and related provisions in our constitution. These are not under threat as they are accepted by all citizens. Why create a bogeyman, if not for personal agenda?

The old NEP now longer works, although it had been successful in creating Malay human capital. It is now dysfunctional.  It is time to change our approach to affirmative action. It is time to put this Malay intellectual capital to good use.

The Malays can compete, if they are prepared to liberate themselves from total dependence on government. Forget the easy option; in fact, there is none. Nothing is given; everything is obtained through hard work, and sacrifice. The old adage which says, “you reap what you sow” is apt here.

The NEM document notes that ” Malaysia has reached a defining moment in its development path. It risks being left behind or worse still,suffering a reversal in living standards, unless it implements far reaching and comprehensive reforms. Economic policies to date are no longer keeping Malaysia competitive enough regionally and globally to generate sufficient growth”.  If we wish to prosper, then we must think and act differently. The experts at the NEAC led by Tan Sri Amirsham Aziz produced a document which  requires rational discourse and careful consideration, not politiking.

We should be addressing the issues of growth and competitiveness. We are talking about the future for the Malaysian Malays and other Malaysians in a competitive economic environment; we must not cling to the past.  In the wider context of national unity and solidarity, we cannot be held hostage to a small group of Malays who want the old NEP system to remain because it has been beneficial to them in the past. This is the time to move on ; we cannot be prisoners to policies that have weakened the Malays in general.

Prime Minister Najib, I urge you not to give in to these extreme elements in the Malay community and your own party, UMNO. You must move forward with your NEM if you wish to make Malaysia great again. Competency, meritocracy and integrity must be the foundation of your administration.

I personally have never underestimated the capacity of the Malays to adjust and adapt to changing and challenging times. I believe we can compete and win. What we need is a strong belief in ourselves. The Malays of old (e.g, the Malays of the Malacca Sultanate) did not have the NEP yet they were able to compete and trade beyond their shores and hold their own at home against others. We need that can do spirit.  We must believe in ourselves. Yes, we can.—Din Merican

Khalid Ibrahim stays as Menteri Besar and Selangor PKR Chief

May 30, 2009

Selangor Menteri Besar stays as State PKR Chief, says President Wan Azizah

S Pathmawathy (May 29, 2010)

PKR has no plans to replace Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim as the party’s Selangor chief, said PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

“We have no plans to review his position in the party,” she told a press conference in Kota Bharu after issuing the presidential address to PKR’s national congress.

Also present were PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali and DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang.

On PAS’ part, said Mustafa, the party has “full trust” in the Selangor MB as he has been doing a good job. “The question does not arise at all, but we have to do stock-checking as we are already in the middle of the year,” added Lim Kit Siang.

Wan Azizah  was fielding questions on Khalid’s tenure following rumours of a rift between him and PKR vice-president and Gombak MP Mohd Azmin Ali, and that both could not see eye-to-eye on certain matters.

Other key leaders within the party had also purportedly been sceptical of Khalid’s ability to head the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign and his general lack of political acumen.

Lacking skills?

The tensions supposedly ruptured last month in the run-up to the Hulu Selangor polls, after Azmin voiced disagreement with Khalid, who is also PKR’s treasurer-general, over campaign strategy issues.

Azmin (right), however, has rubbished the rumours, and pointed out that it was he who proposed the former Guthrie CEO to be the party’s election director for the by-election.

It was only on the question of when the campaign was to start that their minds did not meet, he added. Earlier in her address to the party, Wan Azizah praised Khalid who she said had borne heavy responsibilities since leading the Selangor government as its Menteri Besar.

“He has defended the principles of transparency and accountability by chipping away at the wastage and corruption that have become part of UMNO’s culture.

“The courage of the Selangor government in introducing SELCAT – exposing all (the state government workings) – is (the type of) renewal that we can be proud of,” said Wan Azizah in reference to the state assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Notwithstanding Khalid’s leadership, the PKR top gun warned party members and leaders – especially the excos in Pakatan-Rakyat-led state governments – to defend their menteri besar and chief minister.

While the Selangor government is firm, she said, it is under pressure from UMNO leaders’ plots “to sabotage and seize the Selangor state” from the Pakatan coalition.

“We need to be aware of their agenda,” she added.Nonetheless, said Wan Azizah, congratulations are in order for Khalid and the other Pakatan leaders in the Selangor government who have toiled to administer the state well despite being faced with internal and external challlenges and hindrances.

“Recognition (of good work) does not come free. The Selangor government must continue upholding the aspirations of the people, the aspirations of the party and of Pakatan.”

Subsidy Cuts will be good for Malaysia

May 29, 2010

Subsidy cuts will be good for Malaysia

The proposed subsidy cuts are turning out to be a political football but experts are more optimistic, saying they would boost competitiveness and appeal to foreign investors.

Dr Yeah Kim Leng, chief economist for RAM Holdings, said the long-overdue subsidy rationalisation plan had come at the right time. “The Malaysian economy has, in a way, rebounded so the implementation would not be that burdensome to the people,” he said.

“With inflation below the trend level of 3 per cent, the price impact will not exert a major concern because it will not result in runaway prices.”

He cited three major benefits of subsidy reforms, the first of which was greater efficiency gains overall.“Subsidy savings, instead of supporting consumption, can be directed to productive spending such as education, R&D, healthcare and public transportation,” he said.

The second benefit would be enhancement of the efficiency of the economy.“As we move closer to market prices, supply and demand becomes more market-responsive [and are] driven by price signals,” he said.

Yeah contended that this will allow transport services and basic food industries to be more competitive. “They will become more efficient because they will respond more efficiently to price changes,” the economist said, arguing that non-subsidised prices for goods and services will force resources to be allocated with minimum wastage.

The third and final benefit would be a more resilient economy, strengthened by lower fiscal deficit and government debt. “The lesson of the ‘Greek tragedy’ is quite stark and very relevant in our current context,” he warned.

“We will [need to] build up our fiscal bullets in order to face future shocks,” Yeah said, with the understanding that a resilient economy will be able to withstand jumps in oil prices or even a global recession.

He pointed out that the government does not have the resources at the moment to engage in counter-cyclical spending, saying that greater fiscal resilience will give it more flexibility to do so. Yeah explained that the removal of subsidies will also reduce macro-imbalances, which are of “major concern” to foreign investors. “Domestic investors will also lose confidence in the economy if debt levels build up,” he added.

Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam, a former Finance Ministry deputy secretary-general, also welcomed the cuts, saying they will do the economy much good.

“Finally, reality has set in… This will definitely have a positive and constructive effect on the economy and the future prospects of Malaysia’s socio-economic and political stability.

“The reduction of subsidies can be painful but it is necessary otherwise the economy will fail and decline.” He said subsidy reform will boost confidence in the economic management of the country and make it more appealing to foreign and domestic investors.

“These more realistic policies will encourage them to look at Malaysia’s economy as a good prospect in the long term and not only the short term.”

He added that the removal of subsidies will aid sustainable development and help maintain our standing in the IMD Competitiveness Index at a high level. Navaratnam also took the opportunity to criticise the “old NEP (New Economic Policy) mentality”, which he said was not positive or competitive enough.

“The subsidies syndrome, which is not only present in the price of commodities but right through the system, will take a heavy blow. [This will help] improve the mindset of Malaysians.”

He called the subsidy mentality a “cancer” that must be treated drastically. “If you don’t do [this] you will die in the long term… For too long we have neglected these basic problems in economic management,” he said.“That is why it is so difficult now to try and reduce what you gave so generously without good reason.”

Navaratnam also cautioned against Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s recent apocalyptic warning about the state of the country’s budget deficit, saying Idris might have exaggerated its severity.

“He has taken the situation as static when, in fact, while debt can be high, it is a proportion of the GDP that matters,” Navaratnam said.

“He has to take into account that the economy will be growing in its budget revenue and balance of payment receipts… The proportion of debt servicing to GDP need not be as dismal as he claims it out to be.”

Yesterday, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had warned that Malaysia risked ending up like Greece if it did not stop “living beyond our means”, noting that the country could go bankrupt by 2019 if the government continues spending on subsidies at the current rate of 12.5 per cent a year.

However, Navaratnam said: “Nevertheless, his warning is well taken and the image of Greece could well be adapted as a possible scenario if we continue with the subsidy mentality in overall economic management.”

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

May 29, 2010

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

A coalition of pro-press freedom NGOs are planning a wake entitled the “528 Tak Nak Potong Night” today, (May 28, 2010) to commemorate what they claim is the day that press freedom in Malaysia died.

The NGOs organising the event include the 528 Media Action Group, Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).

NONESelf-exiled controversial blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin (right) himself is set to make a cameo pre-recorded video appearance, scheduled to “Speak Out and Loud” at tonight’s anti-censorship festivities, according to the organisers.

The numbers 528 were picked, said the NGOs, to represent May 28, marking the takeover of Chinese dailies by Nanyang Press Holdings in 2001, effectively putting them under the thumb of the ruling coalition’s Chinese based component party MCA, through its investment arm Huaren Holdings.”

Something which was rinsed and repeated by Umno’s takeover of the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia and its widely speculated indirect ownership of other mainstream media, most notably the News Straits Times and Berita Harian.

From then onwards, the groups claimed in an emailed press statement, the freedom of the mainstream media to report independently deteriorated further, culminating in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s tightened executive control over them during the Hulu Selangor and Sibu by-elections.

According to the statement, the 8pm event at the Jeffrey Cheah Hall in the KLSCAH building, will feature a special night of performance and screening of censored and banned materials including books, films and art work, or as the organiser labelled them, “potong” materials.

NONEThese include Amir Muhammad’s controversial “18MP” video, former RTM producer Chou Z Lam’s (left) axed Bakun documentary, Pusat Komas’ “Selepas Tsunami” video seized by the government in Sibu, and Lim Sow Seng’s “Lonely KL Press”.

While banned publications showcased that night will include political cartoonist Zunar’s “Gedung Kartun” and Wong Eng Leong’s “Heaven of Demons”.

Joining this are Sharon Chin’s “Banned Books and Other Monsters” exhibition and Liew Teck Leong’s exhibit on “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984”.

The night will also showcase thought-provoking artworks by Fahmi Reza, Five Arts Centre, Tan Hui Koon, Chai Chang Hwang, Satu Hulu Action Group and Teh Hong Seng.

Propaganda’ disobedience

The NGO have also issued an open invitation to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) President Norila Daud, the Group Managing Director of Sinchew Media Group Liew Chen Chuan as well as journalists, editors and citizens of the Klang Valley to participate in a symbolic action of abolishing the infamous Printing Presses and Publications Act by removing a nail each from the “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984” artwork.

As a form of protest against what they claim to be the heavy hand of government media censorship, the NGOs are also inviting the public to join in their fight via simple acts of civil disobedience.

NONEThose unable to join the protests in various forms like, flash mobs or writing complaints send to the mainstream media were urged to stop watching and reading what they call “propaganda” media and switch off their TV sets for an hour from 8pm-9pm as well as refrain from buying newspapers today.

‘Media complicity’

The group added that while May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and May is press freedom month, in Malaysia, the relevance of this day was reinforced by two exposés of self-censorship in TV stations, one after the other.

NTV7 censored Editor’s Time, a current affairs programme, in reaction to a text message complaining about the show.

The former producer of the programme, Joshua Wong Ngee Choong, who resigned on April 20 over this self-censorship by NTV7, claimed that the text message was forwarded from the Prime Minister’s Department to his supervisor.

Despite Wong’s explanation that allegations in the complaint were baseless, the TV station placed restrictions on the programme.

No discussions on political issues or the coming Hulu Selangor by-election were allowed while opposition politicians were banned from the popular forum. Just a week later, state owned TV channel TV2, axed a current affairs series after running the first couple of episodes.

The programme’s producer Chou alleged that his 10-episode daily programme on the social and economic plight of indigenous people displaced by the Bakun Dam project, was shelved to prevent negative feedback ahead of a by-election in the state.

The NGOs contended that Chou’s exposé paints a stark picture of media complicity to deprive the public of their right to information citing distress that in both cases, a by-election was cited as the excuse for abandoning discussion of current affairs. This goes against the public’s right to be properly informed before discharging their duty to vote.

PKR to go for Quality

May 28, 2010

PKR must plumb for Quality

by Terence Netto (May 27, 2010)

PKR deputy president Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali today opened the Wanita and Youth divisions of the party with a call to create a leadership corps drawn from within a pool of cadres imbued with the highest ideals.

pkr national congress 301108 syed husin aliSpeaking to a joint assembly of both wings of the party at the Kelantan Trade Centre in Kota Bharu tonight, the veteran politician said the process of creation of this leadership corps must be refined and closely monitored.

“This process must entail immersion in leadership training and party organisation courses and also require work among the masses such that the latter are geared towards organising and fighting for their rights,” said Syed Husin.

He said PKR did not require strength in numbers so much as quality of membership. “We need members who are of high quality from the standpoint of discipline, political awareness and involvement.

“We need members who understand, uphold and adhere to the basis of the party’s struggle to the point where they do not lose their compass even when they find themselves alone,” he said.

Giving no hint that this would be his last speech to a party assembly as deputy president, the former academician offered to help out in the process of leadership training, thus hedging the question of his intended retirement this year.

Syed Husin had earlier this year hinted that he would not defend his post at party elections scheduled to be held at a special assembly towards year’s end.

The hint raised fears of a potentially divisive contest for the deputy presidency that he has held since the party he led, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, merged with Parti Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2002.

Alluding to the issue of defections from PKR, a phenomenon that has marred the party’s image over the past year, Syed Husin told the assembly that he viewed the entire situation as a “cleansing process”.

He noted that every major political party in Malaysia had experienced the phenomenon of defections at various points in their history, observing that several had gone on to higher levels of strength and accomplishment.

Syed Husin said a sure way of preventing defections from the party was to marinate members in the party’s ideology.

Building blocks of party’s ideology

He acknowledged that PKR had yet to fully formulate an ideology because of what he described as its “rainbow” beginnings.

Syed Husin said the party was formed out of an assembly of members who originated from different political backgrounds, including some who had no previous experience of politics. He said this meant that many members with a political past found it difficult to trim their sails to fit PKR’s but that those without such a past were open to molding. Thus this made courses and training for members a matter of necessity.

Syed Husin said the party’s ideology should be formulated from the building blocks of its struggle for justice for all Malaysians.

He cited the building blocks as justice for all, concern for people’s welfare, forging a united nation, and promotion of moral and ethical values for national well-being. He said PKR could not go wrong if it held unswervingly firm to this basis of its struggle.

Barry Wain at University of Malaya

May 28, 2010

Barry Wain provides insights on Mahathir at University of Malaya

by Hafiz Yatim

What was supposed to be a highbrow discussion of Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent times led by the author himself at the nation’s oldest university turned out to be a critical session on the Fourth prime minister.

Wain (below), started yesterday’s evening session in University of Malaya with recounting his fascination in writing about Mahathir, owing to his interests in Southeast Asia and the rise of dominant political figures here like Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Suharto (Indonesia), Sihanouk and Hun Sen (Cambodia) and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore).

NONE“As Malaysia was a rising Southeast Asian country, I thought it would be fruitful to write on Mahathir. I had interviewed the Fourth prime minister, three times before writing this book.”

One of the lesser known things, Wain, 65, disclosed to the 100 plus audience that despite Mahathir being known to be anti-American, the former premier was agreeable to the country signing an agreement with the United States to allow the US army to conduct jungle warfare training in Johor.

Mahathir, the author said, had opposed the presence of the American 7th fleet in Singapore, but he did not make a public disclosure of 1984 agreement.

Wain, a former Asian Wall Street Journal editor said this showed the two contrasting characters of the Malaysia’s Fourth prime minister.  “Despite Mahathir’s passion for politics, such matters were never discussed at home,” he said, adding he verified this fact with Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the former premier’s wife.

“Hasmah said politics was never discussed at home. Even when Mahathir had written the infamous letter calling for the first premier Tunku Abdul Rahman’s resignation following the 1969 racial riots , the matter was not made known to her or the family,” he said.

It was as if Mahathir had compartmentalised his life, said Wain in providing an insight into Malaysia’s long serving Prime Minister. Wain had mentioned this compartmentalised thinking in an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini. He also said while Mahathir was bent on the physical development of Malaysia, not much was centered on human capital development of the country.

Ong: Conduct research on brain drain

Political analyst, Ong Kian Ming, one of the panelist who reviewed the book concurred with Wain, saying that studies should be conducted on this issue.

“For example, the Public Services Department spent a lot in awarding scholarships to Malaysians for overseas studies. However, when they return, do they work or contribute their best minds to the government and civil service?” he asked.

“I can say 99 percent of them are working outside the government. As a result the civil service here is still incompetent.”

Ong, who had just completed reading his PHD in Political Science at Duke University in the US, said why can’t Malaysia emulate her southern neighbour ,Singapore, in that the best minds are all in the government sector or in government- owned companies.

Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, another panelist agreed that despite all the harping on the New Economic Policy, Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister, was not used properly to achieve its goals. “He wanted to produce Malay millionaires but instead of helping others, they in turn kept the money and had gone richer,” he said.

Gomez said if we look at the top seven companies in Bursa Malaysia, one can see how many are majority owned by Bumiputeras.

The professor in economics also said what was important in the New Economic Model, introduced by Najib was the aim to reduce all leakages while focusing on capital development.

Wain: Investments not coming in

Wain noted that foreign investments to Malaysia had dropped compared with the 1990’s. “What is a source of concern is also that Malaysian businessmen themselves are not reinvesting in Malaysia but are doing so in some other countries. Money is not coming in but instead it is going out.”

“The recent 10.1 GDP first quarter growth was as a result of government spending.”idris jala pemandu subsidiesHe agreed with the findings released by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala (right), yesterday that if subsidies were not cut, the country would go bankrupt.

Wain, who was also the now defunct Far Eastern Economic Review editor said besides subsidies, the Goods and Services Tax would have to be imposed to widen the broad base of taxes, through which the government could boost its revenue.

The author was also asked his opinion on why Mahathir supported Perkasa, as it goes against his mooted idea of Vision 2020, of seeing the many races in Malaysia unify, and to which the reply was succinct: the former premier was a person who likes the limelight. “He craves media attention and that is the reason why,” he said.

Responding to another question whether he would write a second book on Mahathir since some topics like Sabah and Sarawak and aspects of his children were not covered extensively, the author said no, as his second would be on Southeast Asia.

Wain, said a sixth reprint of the book is in the works and that 4,000 copies of the books were sold out in Malaysia since the ban was lifted on April 23, and another 5,000 copies had just been recently ordered.

He also said that he had given a copy of his book to Mahathir but had not either personally met him or knew his response to it.