Syed Nazri’s “Theatrics of PKR’s Ketua Umum”

November 30, 2010

Zaid Ibrahim would be delighted at Syed Nazri’s “Theatrics of PKR’s Ketua Umum

FOR a person who goes around talking so much about democracy and human rights, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a walking, talking contradiction. How else could you describe it when he is now actually stepping into another term as unconstitutional, non-elected ketua umum — the supremo, great leader, the mighty chief — of Parti Keadilan Rakyat?
To many, the declaration of support by delegates at the weekend party congress legitimising his position would remain just that — a show. A rerun of 2007, in fact. He is de facto leader definitely because his powers seem to exceed and override those of party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, his wife — which makes it bad enough that it has to be a family-run party. 

But wasn’t it just two weeks ago that the parliamentary opposition leader was in Australia spinning a yarn about Malaysian democracy? He was telling his audience that Australian leaders had been “ill-advised” to avoid speaking out about human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

“I think the issue of democracy, human rights, rule of law — they’re not something that you can just ignore,” he was heard saying over Radio Australia on Nov 16. Absolutely, Datuk Seri. But it does seem a little strange, doesn’t it, coming from a person who is not really living up to what he preaches.

The latest PKR elections were mired in so much controversy, with reports indicating that, of the 162 formal election complaints from members about fraud and non-compliance of election rules, less than 15 per cent were officially discussed.

It was also alleged that some of the most blatant frauds occurred in Libaran, Sandakan and Tawau (all in Sabah) and Sri Aman (Sarawak) where the process and voter attendance were heavily disputed.  But the cases, some insiders said, were ignored by the Ketua Umum.

Disgruntled PKR members even staged protests on many occasions against unfair practices in the party. Just imagine — Anwar, the godfather of street demos, now having to face this wrath. It was really a case of senjata makan tuan or the weapon turning on its master.

But perhaps his most glaring disregard for democracy is his continued tenure as non-elected ketua umum, even if the “legitimisation” came from the floor on Sunday (1,200 delegates declaring without vote on behalf of the thousands of other members).  What do you expect when it was done in his presence?

A pattern seems to be building up somewhere with this latest development. Let’s look back a little at what happened when PKR had its last elections in 2007.

Members had then wanted Anwar to run for president, giving him numerous nominations in the process. So, it was to be a three-cornered fight between him, Dr Wan Azizah, the incumbent, and former party treasurer Abdul Rahman Othman.

But at the very last minute, the scenario changed when Anwar suddenly announced he was withdrawing as he did not want to run foul of the law, which prohibited someone who had been in prison from holding any post in any society for five years upon release.

Anwar, who came out of prison three years earlier, made an impassioned plea at the party congress in Seremban.

And this was how the New Sunday Times of May 27, 2007 reported it: “He presented a tough choice to the 1,500 delegates — if he won, he was prepared to face a personal legal battle. But if the PKR ended up being dissolved as a result of his victory, both the party and members would suffer the consequences.

“It was then that some delegates stood up, interrupting Anwar’s speech to convey their support for him. Then, a long line of delegates waited for the same opportunity to use the floor’s microphone to give their two sen’s worth.

“The exchange of opinions on the pros and cons of Anwar being the party president went on for almost an hour. And when Anwar returned to the podium on stage after more than a dozen people had expressed their views, the silent hall of the Chung Hua High School heard him propose a formula.”

It was at that moment, it was reported, that Anwar announced to everyone that he could be the leader, but asked delegates to accept Dr Wan Azizah as president. A delegate then stood up to propose that Anwar be made PKR’s de facto leader with a provision that he would stand in the next elections (this year). And the floor shouted its agreement in unison.

To add to the drama, Abdul Rahman then declared he was withdrawing from the contest as a mark of respect for Anwar’s announcement. It was theatrics at its best. The no-contest has left Dr Wan Azizah as president for another term and Anwar stronger than ever in the party.

Are we seeing another round of theatrical outburst this time with the Wanita motion? But the question remains as to why Anwar is reluctant to contest the PKR presidency this time around when he is, by law, eligible.

Why should he hold on to the very ambiguous position of ketua umum? Is he afraid of a possible embarrassment that he might not get 100 per cent support, hence a dent on his ego? Or is there another underlying reason?

Anwar is trying to portray that he has been so wronged he could be the Aung San Suu Kyi of Malaysia. But the way things are going, he could end up more like Kim Jong-il.

Malaysia Airlines’ Multi-Billion Ringgit Losses

November 30, 2010

Malaysia Airlines’ Multi-Billion Ringgit Losses: Social Care Foundation’s Robert Phang urges the Attorney-General to explain

by Leven Woon Zheng Yang@

Attorney-general (AG) Abdul Gani Patail has been called to explain allegations implicating him for the lack of action over Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) multi-billion ringgit losses.

robert phang clarify on anwar allegation 080410 01Social Care Foundation chairperson Robert Phang Miow Sin (left) said records and pictures from a whistleblower website of Abdul Gani together with an individual said to be close to former MAS chairperson Tajuddin Ramli have added a different dimension to the controversy.

Phang, who is also a member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) consultative and advisory panel, said Abdul Gani may see adverse public speculation over his connection to the issue if he ignored the allegations.

Phang was responding to the emergence of photographs on news portal Malaysia Today, showing Abdul Gani together with one Shahidan Shafie during their recent haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Abdul Gani’s relationship with Shahidan was a close one, Malaysia Today alleged further, as reflected in the former’s early exit from a Malaysia Day function last September to accompany Shahidan to the hospital when the latter’s child suffered an accident.

NONEThe website had in September and November also claimed that it was Shahidan, said to be an ex-police officer, who had convinced Abdul Gani not to press charges against Tajuddin.

Tajuddin, who was MAS’ executive chairperson from 1994 to 2001, has been blamed for the national carrier suffering losses amounting to more than RM8 billion.

MAS had also filed several reports against Tajuddin with the MACC, citing Tajuddin’s move to relocate MAS’ cargo operations in Amsterdam and Frankfurt to a single hub in Hahn, Germany, as the single biggest loss suffered under him.

The new hub operation reportedly incurred monthly losses of between RM10 million to RM16 million before it was terminated and the government took over control of MAS in 2001.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Phang said MACC is entitled to investigate the AG if there was a directive to do so by the Prime Minister’s Department.  Also the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Nazri Aziz, can appoint a panel to oversee the MACC’s investigations into the matter.

He hesitated, however, to say whether MACC would initiate its own probe. “They (Home Ministry) must form the panel first, then MACC can investigate,” said Phang.

Make use of Bank Negara reserves

November 30, 2010

Make use of  high reserves, says Malaysia’s self appointed Economic Advisor

Malaysia’s high international reserves can be mobilised, says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Our reserves today are too high. We have over US$100 billion as reserves, which can sustain eight months of retained imports,” he said.

The country only needs to have reserves up to three or four months of retained imports, he said in his address at the ‘Revisiting Vision 2020’ organised by the Institute of Marketing Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur today.

NONE“Out of the US$100 billion, you can actually mobilise US$50 billion, which will help the government. It is saying it does not have the money to do this and that, no money to subsidise.

“So, why not use this money,” he said. During the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, Malaysia’s foreign reserves was only US$17 billion and during recovery it was US$30 billion, he said.

Dr Mahathir however said he was not sure if the higher reserves were due to the depreciation of the US dollar or it was the actual reserves the country has.

The US dollar has depreciated about 20 per cent versus the ringgit. Bank Negara Malaysia announced that as at November 15, its international reserves amounted to RM326.5 billion (equivalent to US$105.8 billion).

The reserves position is sufficient to finance 8.8 months of retained imports and is 4.5 times the short-term external debt, it said.

Dr Mahathir also said Malaysia could easily emerge as a rich nation if the ringgit strengthens to the pre-crisis level of RM2.50 to a US dollar. Currently, the ringgit is hovering at RM3.1 versus a greenback.

More focus on domestic direct investments

“If the ringgit strengthen to the (pre-crisis) level of RM2.50, of course the country’s gross domestic product growth would have become higher,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said due to external factors and the crisis, Malaysia’s per capita income did not grow to US$16,000 as envisaged under Vision 2020. He said the country has a good 10 years to work to realise Vision 2020 goals provided the government very carefully manages the country’s economy and its finances as well as supervise these things vigilantly.

There should also be more focus and drive towards domestic direct investments (DDIs) as compared with foreign direct investments (FDIs), said Dr Mahathir who helmed the nation for 22 years as prime minister.

“There is not much money coming in and at the same time you should remember that there are two million foreign workers who remit money home,” he said.

“Hence, if the country continues to woo more foreign investments, the revenue will not be high enough to achieve Vision 2020.

“It will take much longer to achieve Vision 2020 and not in 2020. Therefore, the country needs more DDIs, whereby the profits remain here and achieve the seven per cent GDP growth that is needed to achieve Vision 2020. I am very sure that our industries will grow even faster and contribute to the nation’s GDP and per capita income provided the government gives good incentives as well as free them from obstacles for their growth,” he said.

Hence, the strategies to attain Vision 2020 has to be changed as “we can’t follow the path we took before, which is very dependent on foreign direct investments to domestic direct investments.”

“The government is already thinking about it and I hope a decision will be made (soon),” he added.

Take the bull by the horns and fix PKR

November 29, 2010

Anwar, take the bull by the horns and fix PKR

by Terence Netto@

COMMENT The hour has come for Anwar Ibrahim to match deed to word.  This now rapidly receding year has been one of dismal frailty in his party, what with defections, resignations and disruptions that have sown doubt about the party’s capability to lead the agenda of political change for the country.

A party seemingly smoothing along nice and easy has been badly thrown off-stride, afflicted by confidence-eroding jerks and twitches.

pkr congress 281110 anwar syed husinOut of the discontinuity between the image it aspires to create – its capacity for a lead role in governing the country – and the reality that is less grand – disarray in its ranks and defective mechanisms in its administration – comes the opportunity for grand retrieval.

Where there is crisis there must also be opportunity. A grand recovery is what is required of Anwar to slide back to the top of the wave for change he campaigned for intensively three years ago and that was partly consummated in the tsunami of March 2008.

Lapses and slips are par for the course in a political career. But when these are allowed prolonged tenancy, they erode gains made earlier and destroy reputations long in the making.

After a torrid exercise in leader-selection that tried to enshrine the most radical principle yet in Malaysian democratic politics – direct voting by party members of its principal office-bearers – the PKR supremo must make the remaining days to the year a period of unequivocal action rather than prevarication.

Anwar’s month of decisive action

These actions could begin with the appointment of a new secretary-general, one of professional administrative bent, uninterested in a personal career in politics.

PKR needs such a person in this critical role, to insulate the nerve centre of the party from the vagaries of the factional battles that democratic parties are prone to.

NONEAnwar’s month of decisive action could continue with the selection of a new election director because the current one (Fuziah Salleh, right) has now a party veep position to take care of in addition to the defense of her MP-ship of Kuantan, not an easy seat to secure in the next general election.

The top range to this activist response to crisis would be the appointment of Dr Jeffrey Kitingan to the post of chief selector of candidates for all the seats PKR intends to contest in Sabah, and not just the seats with a Kadazan-Dusun-Murut majority.

This move would effectively forestall what is being anticipated through the resignation the other day from PKR of Philip Among, Jeffrey’s chief aide. The resignation is a harbinger of disintegration to the party’s Sabah chapter.  Other moves would include the naming of a respected luminary in socio-political society to the chairmanship of PKR’s disciplinary committee.

Last but not least, Anwar ought to outline what should be done for the education of Dr Molly Cheah , PKR’s hapless party election monitor who has had a role akin to the retired Tony Blair’s in the Middle East peace process – a walk-on role of embarrassing nullity.

An Alternative Paradigm for Change and Reform(?)

November 28, 2010

“In the aftermath of the previous general election, opposition politicians talked about the political tsunami that engulfed the nation in tones of euphoric surprise initially. Over time, the tone and tenor of the rhetoric mutated and it is beginning to seem as if some of the politicians feel they are where they entitled to be. Some have gone so far as to posture as if they are our only choice…

The PR (Pakatan Rakyat) cannot run away from the fact that the Keadilan controversy has dented public confidence. Simply repeating that all is well will not go far in addressing the fundamental difficulties that have been brought into focus by it. Concrete steps must be taken.”–Malik Imtiaz

An Alternative Paradigm for Change and Reform (?)

by Malik Imtiaz Sarvar

I do not think I am alone in feeling that this country is in need of a serious overhaul. Sweeping reform, of a nature far deeper than the superficial changes conceived by consultants to seduce voters, is critical to our continued survival. If voter sentimentnat the last general election is any indication, I think I am similarly not alone in believing that a change of government is in order.

I am guided to this conclusion not by dint of any admiration for those currently in Pakatan Rakyat(PR). Although admitted , there are individuals among them for whom I have a great deal of respect, this in itself is not a reason for change. The matter is addressed rather by reference to the seming inability of Barisan Nasional (BN) at the present time to form the kind of government this country needs.

It is not very difficult to prove this proposition: the BN is held by its component parties and their members, in particular UMNO. In as much as some within the BN may wish to push the envelope on reform, they are subject to those who shape influence with these parties.

Sadly, these influences seem to be driven by the belief that the ends justify the means. It is for this reason that painfully sectarian communal politics and the attendant inflammatory race and religious posturing are still very much a part of our lives despite this obviously being counter to the interests of us all. Repeated pleas to reconsider the value of such politics is met with hostility or simply ignored.

Their impact on the landscape is undeniable. Constant pandering to the politics of race and religion has resulted in grave consequences. Our country has been left terribly weakened, its institutions in seeming disarray, with no clear direction as to how to restore things to the way they once were.

At the heart of this is a highly worrisome race relations problem that is not only disruptive of desperately needed unity but also undermines our fundamentals, not least for standing in the way of constructive dialogue. Rather than engage in the issues, the government chooses to police thought and expression, the imminent sedition laws for cyberspace aptly illustrating the seige mentality of the current leadership.

To say that the citizenry is fearful for its future would not be overstating the situation, I think. For many of us, hope of the leadership recognising that what is best for our country is not necessarily defined by its political interests has diminished, if not wholly faded away. Trends that led us to doubt the quality and integrity of the government have not been arrested; concerns about the independence of key institutions–the Attorney-General’s Chambers, police, anti-corruption commission, Judiciary, and Election Commission, to name but a few–still abound as do doubts about the commitment of these bodies to the spirit of the Constitution.

The rakyat (people) has for some time felt that it cannot take their government at face value or believe in it being committed to do right by them. The constant refrains by its agents that all is well have worn thin. It is for this reason that the vote turned against the BN in 2008 the way it did. Wisdom would dictate that this was not so much due to voters favoring the PR rather than rejecting the BN.

Forgive me if I am not saying anything new in this. There is a purpose in reiterating this for the benefit of the PR. In the aftermath of the previous general election, opposition politicians talked about the political tsunami that engulfed the nation in tones of euphoric surprise initially. Over time, the tone and tenor of the rhetoric mutated and it is beginning to seem as if some of the politicians feel they are where they entitled to be. Some have gone so far as to posture as if they are our only choice.

This sense of entitlement is worrying as it is possibly indicative of politics having trumped the underlying cause of change and reform. If this is the case, the line between these politicians and those whom they condemn is less defined than they would have us believe. It would be wise for these politicians to recall that they  were swept to success by a voter sentiment that is as likely to change its direction if the voters are left dissatisfied with what they perceive.

Leave aside the fact that the PR has precious little to make voters aware of what it expects to when, and if, it gets to Putrajaya. Or that it has not made clear what and how it will do as the government will be more viable for the nation than what the BN is doing. These are important issues but are unfortunately beyond the scope of this commentary.

Consider instead what it is Malaysians are being shown about PR through Keadilan. The Keadilan party election controversy raises serious questions about the ability of the party, and its allies whose fate is tied to it, to champion democracy it says it is fighting for.

Electoral irregularities are bound to happen and in any race, there will always be concerns about how

The PKR Troika for Change and Reform

level the playing field is. What is troubling is the scale of the complaints and the manner in which they have, or rather have not, been addressed. We have heard much about naysayers, traitors and the like, but we have heard little about the complaints levelled against the process and how they have been dealt with.

Malaysians need to understand clearly what it is that happened and why it happened. In particular, they need to be made to understand why there are factions within the party that have allowed their personal interests to get in the way of the cause they have represented themselves as championing.

Equally of concern is how, despite the matter having a direct bearing in the reputation of the reputation of the coalition as a whole, the other members of the PR feel unqualified to raise their concerns about it publicly. This is reminiscent of the relationship that the other component parties have with UMNO and, if so, raises an issue as to the power dynamics within the coalition.

The PR cannot run away from the fact that the Keadilan controversy has dented public confidence. Simply repeating that all is well will not go far in addressing the fundamental difficulties that have been brought into focus by it. Concrete steps must be taken.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. It still hold the view that we need a new way of governing our country.. The question is, are we comfortable with placing our hopes entirely on PR? Some would have us believe that it is one or the other, a model that is problematic now that PR has shown itself to have feet of clay. I do not think our options are that limited. For one, PR can be made to see that it does not play a messianic role in the unfolding saga. For another, who is to say that we should not be recasting the paradigm and looking at alternatives?

*Malek Imtiaz Sarwar is a lawyer and the president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Source: The Edge Malaysia (November 29, 2010)

India: “Our Moral Universe seems to be shrinking”, says Sonia Gandhi

November 28, 2010

India: “Our Moral Universe seems to be shrinking”, says Sonia Gandhi

by Anand Giridharadas@

HAD the judgment come from a philosopher or sociologist or foreign journalist, it might have been unremarkable. But it came instead from the political matriarch of India’s governing party.“Our economy may increasingly be dynamic,” Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress party, said last week in New Delhi, “but our moral universe seems to be shrinking.”

Her words quickly swirled into the tempest of India’s ongoing corruption scandal. A recent government audit found that roughly US$40 billion (RM126 billion) had been frittered away by selling telecommunications licences to well-connected companies at far below market values. That is enough money, had it properly been collected, to feed the hungriest tenth of Indians for one full year.

But Gandhi seemed to be speaking of more than just the scandal. Her diagnosis was severe and far-reaching, sharpened perhaps by her special insider-outsider lens as an Italian-born, Indian-widowed, Uttar Pradesh-elected national leader.

“Prosperity has increased, but so has social conflict,” she said. “Intolerance of various kinds is growing. Graft and greed are on the rise. The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a whole generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated.” She is hardly the only Indian to feel this way. One hears this anguish more and more in the salons of Delhi and Mumbai, and in the Indian media.

In China, too, on a visit last summer, I heard over and over from young people fortunate enough to be thriving that their nation was unmoored, lost, morally confused, suffering a crisis of meaning often hard to perceive in the shadows of frothing growth.

“It is impossible to feel calm and quiet in a society that only chases profits,” Ji Qi told me in the lobby of a Marriott Hotel in Shanghai.

He is a serial entrepreneur, the founder of two hotel companies and the online travel portal He is part of what has made China grow so quickly, but he said he had come to regret some of the by-products of that speed.

In this view, there is too much mimicry of Western models, regardless of their fit. There is too much attention to money and not enough on culture and values. Journalists, Ji said, did not ask him what he thought or how China might be changed; they concentrated on his Forbes rich-list ranking.

“A good civilisation should be balanced between material and spiritual,” he said. He thinks that China will undergo, like South Korea before it, a rapid religious revival in the coming decades as more and more people come to feel what he feels.

Lately, he finds himself turning to ancient Taoist texts, to Confucius, to Buddhism, all to anchor himself. He said what so many others did, in different ways: “We need an evolution of thoughts and ideas.”

The world has been aflutter with talk of India and China for several years now. So much of that talk — like so much of the chatter within those countries — is about doing: what their software industries will do to the West, what their coal industries will do to the ecosystem, what their navies will do on the high seas, what their manufacturing sectors will do to the global trade in shoes, medicine, cars.

But if the sentiments of young thrivers in these countries is any guide, the next chapter in the Indian and Chinese stories will not be about doing. It will be, rather, about being. The frenetic doing will go on. India and China each have hundreds of millions of citizens waiting to escape hard, impoverished lives.

Many still lining up to thrive would be surprised to hear that change is coming too quickly. But, among those who have arrived, we may see a rising tendency toward self-scrutiny. It could take disparate forms: Indians and Chinese turning down lucrative jobs to join think-tanks, become journalists, activists or otherwise play their part in the public sphere; young people digging into these two ancient cultures to find ideas of what to wear, read and eat, after the feverish years of Westernisation; sobering media that interrogate growth instead of just giving evidence of it; and philosophers guiding these nations towards new constellations of values.

It is easy to forget, especially when in the West, but also when towering above the land in the sparkling new apartment complexes of Beijing and Mumbai, just how much India and China are going through right now — not economically, not militarily, but deep in their souls.

A relentless futurism has gripped two societies that long prided themselves on reverence for the past. A migration from the countryside to the city is changing their essential characters, with restless, rootless urbanites replacing villagers as the cultural centre of gravity.

Social upheavals that took decades, even centuries, in the West — from feminism to gay rights to the rise of respect for the young — are happening in a historical flash. Parents are finding themselves unforeseeably abandoned in their final earthbound years. Founding heroes whose faces adorn currency — in China, Mao; in India, Gandhi — no longer inspire the same fervour, but new heroes are nowhere to be found.

Indians and Chinese now have time to reflect about growth — as evidenced perhaps in the thousands who turned out last weekend to mourn those who perished in an apartment tower inferno in Shanghai.

The questions they are asking are not only about superpowerdom and their place in the world. They are also about anchoring and purpose, about the quiet life within.

For what great idea will each be known? What counterweights will each poise against the pull of money? Who will be their new heroes?

What kind of world will they summon? What will be, when the hot growth cools and the deeper reckoning comes, the meaning of their rise? — NYT/