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Saturday, July 31, 2010

DAP sacks Tee over graft claims

Tee declared his innocence at a press conference on July 28. On the left is Lui. — File pic
PETALING JAYA, July 31 — The DAP today sacked Klang municipal councillor Tee Boon Hock as a party member over allegations of corruption in securing contracts worth RM1 million from the council.

Tee was earlier asked to go on leave by party disciplinary committee chairman Tan Kok Wai when The Star daily first reported the allegations.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had said the state had begun investigating the claims more than two weeks ago and regretted that the news had leaked.

Tee has been accused of forging state exco member Ronnie Liu’s signature and using his letterhead to secure contracts worth RM1 million from the council for 20 companies.

The allegations against Tee were first reported by The Star on Tuesday but he denied he was corrupt, and is considering suing the daily.

The third-term local councillor had also said that he would ask the Klang Municipal Council to set up a task force to determine the truth.

Liu also denied that his letterhead had been misused.

Will Saiful take another oath to say he was forced by Farah?


Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

As world bodies like the Human Rights Watch continue to condemn the Malaysian government’s unfair prosecution of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, ordinary folk are still digesting the latest convolution in the complex trial that Anwar himself has accused Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor of concocting.

The “tilted” trial will resume on Monday after High Court Judge Mohammad Zabidin Mohd Diah rejected Anwar’s application for a postponement. His lawyers has asked to wait until an Appellate Court decides on whether the defense has the right to key documents currently held by the prosecution, which has stubbornly refused to share.

“Basic fair trial rights require giving Anwar access to the prosecutor’s evidence so he can defend himself. Unfortunately, the prosecutors have tilted the playing field against Anwar by keeping key documents from his lawyers,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Losing all sense of balance

But so brazen-faced have the Malaysian authorities become in their determination to stop Anwar, they seem to have lost all sense of balance in their decisions.

Yet even as Anwar moves a step closer to jail with the trial’s resumption, ironically, he is also a step closer to Putrajaya, the administrative seat of power, thanks to public backlash against Najib’s perceived corrupt methods in blocking out fair competition.

Malaysians are also grappling with the latest scandal within the Sodomy II case – the emergence of an alleged affair between complainant Saiful Bukhari Azlan and one of the deputy public prosecutors in the trial - a lady named Farah Azlina Latiff.

Even the Bar Council has advised the authorities to do the right thing and initiate an investigation. "It is definitely is an ethical matter, as prosecutions are done in the interest of justice. You are there to put your case before the court in the interest of justice. As there is no client here, there should be no relationship between prosecutor and complainant," said Bar president Ragunath Kesavan.

Yet given the record of the trial judge, who has so far veered on the side of the government, few believe that the defense’s application for a probe will be granted.

“Again, the government has gone on denial mode. There is clearly a conflict of interest if the affair is true. The court must allow an investigation by calling on Saiful and Farah to answer if it is true they had an affair,” PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shaharin told Malaysia Chronicle.

Will Saiful take another oath to say he was forced by Farah

Meanwhile, there is boiling curiosity about the identity of Farah’s fiancĂ©. The latest speculation is that he is also a government prosecutor based in a northern state and was heartbroken when Farah dumped him for Saiful.

“Will Saiful take another oath now – this time to swear that he was forced by Farah,” chided Badrul.

Neither Farah nor Saiful have responeded to the allegations so far but if there is a probe, the pair may have to take the stand and confirm or deny the allegations.

Indeed, while there is some sympathy for Farah, the predominant feeling is that of disgust for Saiful who had preened for the cameras and portrayed himself as an innocent, upright youngster who was forced into an illicit sexual act by Anwar.

He even went through the media circus of taking an oath in a mosque, where he swore on the Quran that he was sodomized against his will by Anwar.

Collision course Sunday: Ibrahim Ali vs Khairy Jamaluddin


Malaysia Chronicle

A collision course is set for Sunday between Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali, who will share the stage at a political conference where race, patriotism and ideology can be expected to be hotly and vigorously debated.

Indeed bets are on that not only will sparks and saliva fly, 'street-brawler' Ibrahim Ali has already finalized battle plans on how to dissect, destroy and bury the Oxford-trained Khairy.

For months now, the Pasir Mas MP has nursed a burning anger towards Khairy, whom he and Perkasa patron Mahathir Mohamad blames for making Umno Youth a sissy in the race-championing game.

Perkasa is an ultra-Malay rights group formed early this year. It has grabbed headlines by making extreme statements that have repulsed many people in the multiracial country. Ibrahim has even called Khairy a traitor to the Malays.

Khairy has minced no words either, returning fire with fire and calling Ibrahim a jaguh kampong or village hero and gedebe oportunis or opportunistic thug.

“Of course not, I don’t think it will come to physical blow but verbal blows should be in plentiful supply. For myself, I will stay focused on the politics of ideology versus the politics of race,” Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who is the third speaker, told Malaysia Chronicle.

All three men will be speaking at the finale of the two-day Malaysia Student Leaders Conference, where many other prominent figures will also be attending.

Their session is entitled The Malaysian political mindset: Will politics of ideology trump that of race? To those going, it might be a good idea to bring along an umbrella!

'Reformist' Khairy defends 'poor rich Malays'


PETALING JAYA, (Harakahdaily) - Barely a fortnight after attacking Malay right wing group Perkasa for being orthodox and veteran UMNO leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for being hypocritical, UMNO youth head Khairy Jamaluddin seems to have made an about-turn from his 'reformist' views and criticism of the New Economic Policy.

Khairy, responding to a recent proposal by DAP's Tony Pua to do away with the 7 per cent Bumiputera discount for luxury properties, defended the practice, arguing that Bumiputera entrepreneurs would otherwise only operate their businesses in the outskirts.

The Rembau member of parliament, who could not help taking a poke at Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim for his "silence" over the proposal, argued that Bumiputera ownership of commercial premises costing RM2 million and above in urban areas would drop if Pua's suggestion were implemented.

“Statistics in 2007 show that Bumiputera ownership of properties is only 15.7 per cent. For commercial properties, the Bumiputera only own 29.2 per cent for business complexes and as low as 3.5 per cent for industrial premises. These statistics reflect an imbalance that is too obvious,” he wrote in his blog.

During a recent dialogue on Selangor's 2011 budget, Pua, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP, suggested to the Selangor state government to stop giving discounts to Malays and other Bumiputeras for houses above RM500,000 and commercial properties above RM2 million, citing that the policy had been ambushed by middlemen to make a quick profit.

He however said the seven per cent discount should be retained for homes below RM500,000.

The suggestion immediately riled up right wing Malay paper Utusan Malaysia, accusing him of questioning Malay rights.

However, supporters of the proposal argue that if one could afford a RM2 million property, there is no need for the discount, which was meant to help poor Malays to own homes.

'They are not rich'

Khairy denied Pua’s claim that properties bought at discounted prices had been sold to brokers at higher prices, saying that the matter had more to do with implementation rather than policy.

Khairy's defence of the 7 per cent discount for expensive properties is likely to shift attention to his own stand on Malay upliftment, with one observer questioning whether the young UMNO leader was also trapped in an economic paradox "with no chicken let alone an egg", borrowing a phrase he recently wrote in an article lashing out at Perkasa.

While many have said that giving such a discount is effectively helping rich Bumiputeras instead of helping their poor brethren, Khairy took pains to defend the policy, arguing that owning a RM2 million property does not mean one is rich.

“Bumiputera entrepreneurs seeking to buy commercial premises worth RM2 million cannot be classified as 'rich', as well as those who want to buy houses costing RM600,000,” he said.

Writing in financial weekly The Edge recently, Khairy described himself as a reformist in wanting to see radical changes, and attacked Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali as an "orthodox" trapped in an economic paradox "with no chicken let alone an egg".

“(Perkasa chief) Ibrahim (Ali) represents the orthodox school, while I bat for the reformists. In a nutshell, he believes that there should be more of the same old affirmative action and I want radical changes to policy instruments that have in part failed in their objective of creating a competitive bumiputera commercial and industrial community (BCIC),” he wrote.

Khairy further wrote that the New Economic Policy should be relegated to the "policy trash can of history”.

The youth head had also locked horns with former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, suggesting that the veteran UMNO leader was stuck in a time-capsule and was not a 'liberal' as he was made out to be through his pro-reform statements.

Tengku Razaleigh: BN should be made a multi-racial party


Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah today called for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) be turned into a multi-racial party through direct membership.

The outspoken Umno veteran said that poeple must rid itself of racial politics if the country was serious in 1 Malaysia.

“So let us take 1 Malaysia seriously, and convert Barisan Nasional into a party open to all citizens. Let it be a multiracial party open to direct membership.

“PR will be forced to do the same or be left behind the times. Then we shall have the vehicles for a two party, non-race-based system,” the Gua Musang MP said during the 4th Annual Malaysian Student Leaders Summit here.

Tengku Razaleigh, affectionately known as Ku Li, pointed that racial politics has turned Malaysia into a sick country.

“It is time to realise the dream of Dato’ Onn and the spirit of the Alliance, of Tunku Abdul Rahman. That dream was one of unity and a single Malaysian people. They went as far as they could with it in their time. Instead of taking on the torch we have reversed course.

“The next step for us as a country is to move beyond the infancy of race-based parties to a non-racial party system. Our race-based party system is the key political reason why we are a sick country, declining before our own eyes, with money fleeing and people telling their children not to come home after their studies,” he said.

The Kelantan prince said that the Najib administration must implement policies reflective of 1 Malaysia.

“Let us see the Government of the day lead by example. 1 Malaysia is empty because it is propagated by a Government that promotes the racially-based party system that is the chief cause of our inability to grow up in our race relations.

“Our inability to grow up in our race relations is the chief reason why investors, and we ourselves, no longer have confidence in our economy. The reasons why we are behind Maldives in football, and behind the Philippines in FDI, are linked,” Tengku Razaleigh said.

Perak sitting: Volcano eruption in the offing

It is likely that the next Perak State Assembly sitting may be hit by another political storm, as Pakatan prepares to grill the state on the need for an extra RM80 million budget allocation to top up the deficit budget of nearly RM24 million for 2010.

The main agenda for the Aug 3 session is the Supplementary Supply Enactment 2010 of RM80 million which allocates RM30 million for general miscellaneous services and RM50 million for grants to statutory funds.

NONESince the BN grabbed power from Pakatan, the Perak assembly sessions have so far been one-day affairs to hamstring opposition's attempts at verbal assaults on the former.

As such, the next sitting to add to the deficit budget of RM23,890,000 may just be another one-day exercise in warming assembly seats - a favourite BN tactic to avoid open confrontation with the Pakatan elected representatives.

Pakatan leaders are sending the olive branch to BN asking for a four-day sitting, so as to question the need for the extra funds which come from the taxpayer.

It remains doubtful that the BN will respond positively to the peace overtures and face the opposition wrath for pushing the deficit to almost RM200 million, or precisely RM103,890,000 for this year.

Opposition lists demands

NONEYesterday at a media conference at Pakatan state headquarters, former assembly speaker V Sivakumar (right) outlined the opposition's eight points to ensure a smooth four-day assembly seating to iron out the need for extra allocations.

Among them were:

  • A four-day proper sitting this time around to debate the various issues affecting the state.
  • The question and answer session to be 90 minutes, to ensure that all Pakatan's oral and written questions emailed and sent personally to the assembly secretary are answered.

    During the last sitting the excuse for not answering Pakatan's questions was that they were not directly posted to the assembly secretary.

    But the fact was that Sivakumar, who had received the questions, had indeed forwarded them to him.
  • All media must be given space inside the assembly hall to report the proceedings for Perakians to assess for themselves the performance of their elected representatives.
They should not be confined to the vistors' gallery located above the assembly hall and the sound system of the assembly switched off, as was the case during the last assembly sitting.

The ban on Pakatan assemblypersons bringing into the House any audio or video recording devices like cameras, laptops and mobile phones ban must be lifted as it infringes on their rights and too the opposition front wants a copy of the BN video recordings of the assembly proceedings for its own reference;
  • NONEPolice should not be posted inside or outside the assembly hall which creates an atmosphere of fear, hindering the opposition members from express themselves freely during the sitting; and,
  • All elected representatives should be accorded equal treatment and not segregated and ushered into different routes and doorways like in the last assembly sitting when Pakatan members were thoroughly checked with a metal detector with even their mobile phones confiscated.

However, all the demands could be so much spit in the wind, as going by the record, the BN is unlikely entertain them. And another political volcano appears set to erupt on Aug 3.

courtesy of Malaysiakini

Mustapa not telling the truth on FDI: Ku Li

Former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah today ticked off Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed for not telling the truth about the underlying reasons for the unprecedented 81 percent plunge in foreign direct investment (FDI) last year.

NONE"He is not telling the truth - all these beating around the bush (and) giving flimsy excuses," he told Malaysiakinion the sidelines of the 2010 Malaysian Student Leaders Summit today.

Razaleigh was commenting on the minister's explanation that Malaysia attracted very little FDI relative to neighbouring economies because it is on a different level of the development scale.

According to Mustapa(right), Malaysia is uninterested in attracting investments in low-end sector which are flooding other regional economies.

'Political class fat on lies and theft'


The Gua Musang parliamentarian also rubbished the minister's justification that local investors are moving abroad because the Malaysian market is saturated.

razaleigh hamzah malaysian student leaders summit 2010"The real problem is (investor) confidence. If (his reasons are true) then why are companies like YTL are setting up power plants in Singapore?

"We need money to develop this country.... and (for) training and skills development," he said.

In his keynote address earlier at the student summit, the veteran politician said Malaysia was seemingly operating well not because of good management but because of its abundant natural, cultural and social wealth.

"We have been wearing down this advantage with mismanagement and corruption,” he told 600-strong crowd of both local and overseas students.

"We have a political class unwilling or unable to address the central issue of the day because they have grown comfortable with a system built on lies and theft.”

'Don't polish anyone's apple'


Razaleigh urged the young audience to stake their own paths and not pander to the wants of the older generation.

"Overcome the urge to have (your) hopes for the future endorsed by the prime minister. He will have retired - and I'll be long gone - when your future arrives.

"Resist the temptation to say 'in line with' when (you) do something... You don't need to polish anyone's apple. Just get on with what you plan to do. Don't let the politicians you have invited here talk down to you," he said.

Among the key ministers invited to speak at the two-day conference are Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

He also reminded the youngsters that it is not wrong to demand an end to “economic and education policies - and everything else including the kitchen sink - determined by race."

On the same theme, he called for the breaking down of communal politics through direct membership to both BN and Pakatan Rakyat to create a multiracial two-party system in Malaysia.

courtesy of Malaysiakini

Pakatan leaders: Ling a scapegoat for top Umno leaders


Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Pakatan Rakyat leaders led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed the government’s handling of the Port Klang Free Zone financial debacle, saying it reeked of “cover-ups” at every stage until now when it has gone out of control, former Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik had to be made the scapegoat.

“In this country, the rich can do anything. They can even murder someone and get away with it,” Anwar told a ceramah or political lecture in Bagan Serai.

“Every time we bring up the issue, we were labeled anti-nationalists. And now since they cannot deny it anymore, they have charged Ling Liong Sik.”

Indeed, while Ling has often been accused of corruption throughout his 17-year career as Transport Minister, few believe he can be the mastermind behind the fabulous wastage in the project where external auditors have minced no words in pointing to huge mismanagement and high-level government corruption.

“Face it, the numbers are just too large. Given the power-sharing system in the BN, it is highly unlikely that the Umno elite were not directly involved," PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad told Malaysia Chronicle.

"This is not to say Ling is not involved, whether he is guilty or not depends on the court. But definitely, there are other BN big fishes involved."

A web of deceit and corruption

The PKFZ is the government’s largest port investment and was mooted in the mid 1990s but only took shape in the early 2000s. A budget of RM1.9 billion was allocated but it has jumped multiple folds due to massive cost overruns. Auditors have warned if a RM4.6 bond raised in 2007 is not revamped, the final bill to taxpayers may hit RM12.5 billion.

Ling was arrested on Thursday and charged with cheating the government by misleading the Cabinet on the land valuation for the PKFZ project. He has pleaded not guilty.

At a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee inquiry held last year, both he and the secretary-general of the Transport Ministry Zaharah Shaari had said the Cabinet was properly apprised of the differing sets of land valuation and it was former premier Mahathir Mohamad who made the final decision.

Ling resigned in early 2003 ahead of Mahathir’s own resignation later that same year. The project was continued by Chan Kong Choy, the former deputy MCA president who took over the Transport portfolio, and former premier Abdullah Badawi, who had succeeded Mahathir.

Neither Mahathir nor Abdullah have made any comments despite's Ling's long-service record in the government.

Although, Umno watchers have told Malaysia Chronicle that more high-profile arrests will be coming in the next few days, few Malaysians believe Prime Minister Najib Razak would really carry out a serious clean-up.

“Najib may have too many skeletons in his own closet and Ling is aware of this. It is hard to believe anything will result from the arrest, because if there are more, there may be a backlash and No. 1 could end up finding himself also convicted,” said Khalid.

The Economist Intelligence Report on Malaysia August 2010


There has been speculation in the past month that a general election will be called by early 2011. This would be considerably before its due date, which falls in March 2013. If an early election is called, it may be because the BN wants to make the most of a possible conviction against Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance, who is in court fighting sodomy charges.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Economist Intelligence Unit, London

Country Report - Main report: August 1st 2010

Highlights

Outlook for 2010-11

The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to remain in power in 2010-11. The BN still has a sufficiently large parliamentary majority to pass the bulk of new legislation unchallenged. Speculation has grown about the likelihood that the government will call a snap election, but we do not believe that the prime minister, Najib Razak, is preparing to go the polls before 2012.

Policy will be tightened in 2010-11 following a recent period of fiscal stimulus and loose monetary policy. The government aims to cut its fiscal deficit through an efficiency drive and a reduction in the subsidy bill.
The economy is expected to stage a strong recovery in 2010, growing by 6.8%. However, as this relatively rapid acceleration mostly reflects the rebound from the contraction in 2009, the annual average rate of growth will slow in 2011.

Price pressures will remain subdued in 2010, when we expect consumer price inflation to average 1.7%. Inflation will then accelerate to 2.6% in 2011, owing in part to continued growth in domestic demand. Despite the relatively fast pace of growth of imports compared with that of exports, Malaysia will continue to post substantial trade and current-account surpluses in 2010-11.

Monthly review

There has been speculation in the past month that a general election will be called by early 2011. This would be considerably before its due date, which falls in March 2013. If an early election is called, it may be because the BN wants to make the most of a possible conviction against Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance, who is in court fighting sodomy charges.

Relations between Malaysia and Singapore are improving, with the two sides co-operating on land ownership and tourism deals.

On July 8th Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank) took another step towards returning its main policy rate, the overnight policy rate, to a more neutral level. BNM raised the rate by 25 basis points to 2.75%.

In a surprise move on July 15th the government has reduced the size of the subsidies for five important items. It raised the regulated prices of petrol (RON95 grade) by 2.8%, diesel by 2.9%, cooking gas by 5.7% and sugar by 15.2%.

Data on industrial production and external trade for May showed a continuation of the recent strong growth, but a degree of caution is becoming evident, as reflected by changes in a business conditions index.

Outlook for 2010-11: Domestic politics

In 2010-11 fierce political tussles will continue between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the main opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR, People’s Alliance) as both groups strive to increase their representation in national and state parliaments. At present the BN governs with a simple parliamentary majority, which allows it to pass the bulk of legislation unchallenged. However, a two-thirds majority is needed to amend the constitution. The prime minister, Najib Razak, will continue to pursue a strategy aimed at restoring public confidence in the BN and winning back the seats in state assemblies and the national parliament that the coalition lost at the general election in March 2008. To date, there have been 11 state and parliamentary by-elections since the 2008 general election. The scorecard is eight wins to the PR and three to the BN. Despite these results, Mr Najib's approval ratings have been climbing steadily, from 44% in April 2009 to 72% in May 2010.

In the light of this higher approval rating and recent signs of a strong recovery in the economy, speculation has grown about the likelihood that the government will call a snap election. (The next general election is not due until early 2013.) Although a recent increase in parliamentary allocations for BN members of parliament (MPs) for help with their constituency expenses and a renewed focus on registering new voters has contributed to this speculation, the Economist Intelligence Unit does not believe that Mr Najib is preparing to go the polls before 2012. Although a strong election performance would bolster his mandate, the results of recent by-elections suggest that the electorate has become much more volatile, especially non-Malay voters, and there is no guarantee that the government's plans to reform policies that favour bumiputera (ethnic Malays and other indigenous peoples, who make up around 60% of the population) has increased its appeal among ethnic minorities.

Mr Najib continues to enjoy general support among ethnic Malays, but he does face opposition from conservative groups to his plans to reduce special rights for Malays. He appears to be hoping that he still has sufficient latitude to make further changes to these policies, while also securing a greater understanding for the necessity for other unpopular policy decisions, such as pushing through a goods and services tax (GST). The prime minister is also aware that the promotion of racial harmony is vital to his plans to woo voters from the country’s ethnic minorities, many of whom abandoned the BN in favour of the multiracial opposition at the last election. Mr Najib attempted to encapsulate his political ambitions by coining a new slogan—“1Malaysia: People first, Performance now”—at the start of his premiership.

Mr Najib may be looking for the opposition to fall further into disarray before going to the polls. The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is facing the possibility of a 20-year prison term if found guilty of sodomy, a charge for which he is currently on trial. Mr Anwar continues to claim that the case against him is politically motivated and has been fabricated to remove him from the political scene. A guilty verdict and a custodial sentence for Mr Anwar could destabilise the PR, as he is widely believed to be the glue that holds the alliance together. The PR received a confidence boost from its electoral success in May 2010 when it won the Sibu parliamentary seat, but morale among members of the one of the parties in the PR, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) led by Mr Anwar, remains low, undermined by the recent decision by a handful of its MPs to leave the PKR and stand as independents.

Outlook for 2010-11: International relations

Mr Najib is expected to strengthen economic ties with Singapore and China, Malaysia’s largest trade partners in Asia. To this end, he will continue to promote to Singaporean investors the Iskandar project, a 2,217 sq-km develop-ment zone in the state of Johor, which borders Singapore. In addition, state tourism agencies of both countries have recently launched a feasibility study to look into ways to replicate the success of Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Kranji at similar sites in Johor. Through its membership of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia’s economic ties with China, Australia, New Zealand and India have been strengthened by the signing of free-trade agreements, all of which came into full effect in January.

Outlook for 2010-11: Policy trends

During the next decade the policy agenda will be guided by a host of initiatives aimed at raising per-head income and meeting the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020. Improvements will be made to six national key result areas, outlined in a Government Transformation Programme, which includes raising the quality of human capital and improving basic rural infrastructure. The Tenth Malaysia Plan (10MP), a medium-term spending plan covering 201115, will promote 12 national key economic areas, such as tourism, palm oil and private healthcare, which are thought to have the greatest potential to boost overall economic growth. In the forecast period the government will also be implementing eight strategic reform initiatives, which have been outlined in an Economic Transformation Programme. One of the initiatives is the phasing out of price controls and subsidies, which has been deemed necessary to create a competitive domestic economy. Another is to reform bumiputera affirmative-action policies. The government has already relaxed a requirement obliging firms to offer a minority equity stake to bumiputera. It hopes that further reforms will attract greater inflows of foreign direct investment, which will be one of the main drivers of growth in the next five years. However, the government is unlikely to dismantle affirmative action altogether for fear of losing its Malay support base.

Outlook for 2010-11: Fiscal policy

The government appears determined to address the country’s poor fiscal position, having run up a budget deficit equivalent to 7% of GDP in 2009 owing in part to its economic stimulus measures. The government will have broad success in its aim to cut the deficit to 5.3% this year through an efficiency drive and a reduction in the subsidy bill. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the government to have further success in reining in the budget deficit in 2011, but there will not be a marked narrowing. Plans to widen the tax base have encountered strong resistance from businesses as well as consumers. The government has already announced changes to a new property tax, which will reduce the amount collected from this particular source. However, it remains non-committal on the implementation of the GST, a crucial part of tax reform. The proposed GST will make the government less dependent on payments by the national oil company, Petronas, which currently supplies over 40% of the government's revenue. According to the second finance minister, Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, in early July 2010 the government still had not set a definite timeframe for the implementation of the new tax. Under its original plan, the government had sought to introduce the tax in the third quarter of 2011.

Outlook for 2010-11: Monetary policy

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM, the central bank) is expected to tighten monetary policy further in the forecast period. It has already raised the overnight policy rate (OPR) three times since March 2010, by a total of 75 basis points, pushing the OPR up to 2.75%. It is expected to make incremental changes to the OPR in a process that it regards as a normalisation of this interest rate, after it was cut to a record low in response to a dramatic downturn in the Malaysian economy in 2009. However, BMN does not foresee inflation rising to problematic levels, believing that it will remain moderate going into 2011, with the forecast of a strengthening in domestic demand being accompanied by only a gradual acceleration in inflation. As such we do not see the OPR rising above the high of 3.5% that was in place during 2007 and much of 2008.

50 years of ISA and VIDEO Anti ISA Rally 2009 ... Remembering the Police Brutality


Tian Chua

1 August is the 50th Anniversary of ISA. The notorious law was enacted in 1960 when the legitimacy of the newly founded federation of Malaya was challenged by armed insurgency.

The ruling Alliance led by late Tunku Abdul Rahman assured the Parliament that the ISA would not be used against dissidents abiding by peaceful means of struggle and within the framework of the Constitution. Nonetheless as soon as it was passed, activists from a wide range of political spectrum became victims of the repressive law.

It is obvious that despite the apologists of authoritarian regime frequently justifying the law in the name national security, the ISA is undoubtedly oppressive, undemocratic and it contravenes basic human rights. In half a century of its existence, thousands of people had been imprisoned, and deprived of their families, livelihood and freedom.

The draconian law has conveniently become the weapon for the BN regime to perpetuate corruption and to cover up its misuses of power. It is also a tool to institutionalize a culture of fear among the Malaysian people.

The practice of detention without trial is not condoned by any religious values. In addition to preventive detention, the ISA had been a license for the authorities to torture and torment detainees. Thus such inhumane law should be condemned by democratic minded people both domestically and globally.

In the last few years, in collaborating with civil society organizations, Parti Keadilan Rakyat had intensified its campaign against the ISA. We are unequivocal in our demand for the abolition of the notorious law.

KEADILAN regrets the reluctance and delay in removing the provision for indefinite detention. Throughout 50 years we have witnessed innocent individuals becoming victims of this unjust law. The long list of people included Anwar Ibrahim, Syed Husin Ali, Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, Jeffry Kittingan, Mat Sabu, and many other Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

We believe that Najib and his Government is aware of the growing opposition against the Act. The PM must surely understand that the continuous existence of the ISA will project a negative image of Malaysia in the eyes of the international community.

By not abolishing the ISA, we suspect PM Najib is keeping his options open. Once the political interests of the ruling UMNO are threatened, I am convinced Najib would have no qualms in ordering a heavy crackdown using the ISA.

On behalf of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, I reiterate our firm and unambiguous stand-- the ISA must be abolished. We are determined to continue our struggle for change and to make sure that laws which are inconsistent with human rights and democracy are eventually reformed.

(Tian Chua is the Member of Parliament for Batu and the strategic director of PKR)

Some Malays reject 7pc discount for luxury homes


Boo Su-Lyn, Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Some middle-class Malays have surprisingly rejected the seven per cent Bumiputera discounts for luxury homes, calling the policy “embarrassing” and “unconstitutional” despite Malay politicians saying it was still necessary.

Their stand contradicted Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s opinion that removing the discount for select properties as proposed by DAP’s Tony Pua would anger the Bumiputeras, as well as Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin’s argument that it was still needed to widen Bumiputera ownership in strategic areas.

“It is quite embarrassing to us Malays because it is as if we cannot afford that kind of property,” real-estate business owner Haslinah Yaacob told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

“It is against the Constitution,” said the 49-year-old, who added that housing discounts are not listed under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the special position of the Malays.

Retired engineer Ismail Ibrahim agreed with Haslinah that the Bumiputera discount was unconstitutional and should be scrapped.

“The discounts are illegal and unconstitutional. There is no such thing as special rights of Malays in our Constitution,” said Ismail, 60, pointing out that Malays’ “special position” as defined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution did not translate to “special rights”.

The engineer added that the “special position” of the Malays refers to religious and family matters, and not houses.

Pua, the DAP national publicity secretary, recently urged the Selangor government to abolish Bumiputera discounts for million-ringgit luxury homes as well as commercial property in the state to improve competitiveness and restore investor confidence. However, he proposed keeping the discounts for houses up to RM500,000 and commercial properties up to RM2 million.

On another point, businessman Abdul Aziz Ahmad said the Bumiputera discount was not an Islamic practice as the affirmative action did not benefit the poor in general.

“The policy should cover everyone regardless of race. That is more Islamic,” said the 50-year-old businessman.

Abdul Aziz also criticised the New Economic Policy (NEP) for its failure to achieve the stated 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target since its inception in 1971.

“For 40 years, we failed to achieve even 20 per cent of Bumiputera equity,” said Abdul Aziz.

“It (the NEP) is a policy to cover for Umno, to show that they are fighting for Malay interests. But it is for their own benefit, for certain segments in society,” added Abdul Aziz.

Najib has been criticised for backtracking on the New Economic Model (NEM), which was meant to remove the rent-seeking and patronage practices left over from the NEP, after he called the policy a “trial balloon” when faced with a sour reaction from some Malay groups.

The discount may not last forever, said Najib, but will stay for now.
“If I can afford RM2 million, I should be embarrassed to ask for a seven per cent discount,” said management consultant Mohd Radzi Mohd Taib, 50.

“The discount should not be based on racial status but economic basis,” added Mohd Radzi.

Like Abdul Aziz, the management consultant criticised the NEP for reducing the competitiveness of the Malays.

“We (Malays) are weakened by NEP because we don’t compete on the same level,” said Mohd Radzi, pointing out that Malay students would not study as hard as their non-Malay counterparts as they could still enter government universities even with lower grades.

Communications practitioner Arfan Amaluddin echoed Mohd Radzi’s points, and said that the Bumiputera discount policy merited a relook in order to make the grouping more competitive.

“We should revisit the decision, should it be detrimental in the long run. I believe it is time to do so,” said Arfan, 32.

“This is so that we, the sons of the soil, will in fact become more competitive, especially in order to attain that lofty goal of becoming a ‘developed’ nation,” he added.

Although Najib admitted yesterday that the Bumiputera discount practice might “not last forever”, he said that it would not be removed now, citing possible dissatisfaction among the Malays.

The Najib administration had also decided to maintain the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target in the 10th Malaysia Plan, leading critics to question if the “merit-based” NEM would be finalised months after its debut in March this year.

Surrounded by sycophants, has Taib become delusional?


By Pak Bui

Abdul Taib Mahmud is surrounded by sycophants. They hang on his every word and extol his every move. The media, controlled by the government and its affiliated logging firms, invariably report his policies and speeches as works of genius.

The Borneo Post reported that Taib had delivered a “keynote address” to the Said Business School in Oxford, quoting his rather banal and wordy speech extensively. Perhaps Taib’s speechwriters had something original to say, but if so, I found it indecipherable, even after reading the report twice.

The newspaper mentioned meekly at the end of the article that the conference was organised by the Said Business School together with Tanjung Manis Halal Hub, a component of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). This means the people of Sarawak, through SCORE and the government, paid for the conference and for the lavish holiday of Taib’s retinue of press and ministers.

I might point out that one meaning of “score” is to “cut, slash, mark or notch”. SCORE will definitely leave its mark, or scar, on Sarawak, long after Taib is dead and gone (and unmourned).

The theft of natural resources, the loss of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to the Sarawak Cronies’ Orgy of Relentless Embezzlement, and the environmental destruction wrought by the mega-projects and their associated corruption, will burden us for many years.

Pride and delusion

ISA detainees placed in solitary confinement for weeks on end often lose their minds. Perhaps the reverse is true: immersion in a sea of yes-men practised in inordinate flattery and ball-polishing may lead to a state of unnatural euphoria and pride, perhaps verging on delusion.

After 30 years of exposure to unremitting praise, Taib will have lost touch with reality. He may even believe his own cronies’ press releases.

“Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad” is an ancient saying.

Oxford was the home of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, enchanting children’s books containing many metaphysical and logical riddles for adults. The absurd, distorted world of the books must bear some resemblance to Taib’s warped state of mind.

It must have been an unpleasant surprise for Taib to have been bundled through a service entrance into the Said Business School, without adequate photo opportunities in Oxford’s picturesque streets.

Officials of the Said Business School would have been more phlegmatic, and would have anticipated that he needed bodyguards and a furtive entrance.

These university officials must have found SCORE’s offer of free money too tempting to resist, given that the business school buildings would have been virtually empty during the summer vacation. The main thrust of the conference was Taib’s “branding” with the aura of Oxford, in advance of the Sarawak elections, and not Islamic, or any other branding.

These academics ought to feel shame at demeaning their proud history in this way. But money matters more than academic pride.

Money can certainly destroy the humility that a “believer” ought to have. A “believer” ought not to exploit his religion for marketing, and for worldly pleasures. Taib betrays a far greater love for ”Islamic” profit than for any number of Islamic prophets.

Taib and the Sad Business School cut quite a contrast to distinguished past students in Oxford, including Rodney Needham, Graham Greene, TS Eliot, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, VS Naipaul, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, and Alexander Fleming, to name a few.

Taib’s place in posterity

At this late juncture of Taib’s life, having lost his wife, his health and his reputation, he must be giving some thought to posterity. His sons are unable to take over his throne, because of congenital incompetence.

Taib must still hold out some hope that he can install a member of his family as Chief Minister after he becomes Chief Fertiliser. But Sulaiman is hopeless and Norah Abdul Rahman of Tanjung Manis is after all, just a cousin.

Will he build himself a pyramid and seal himself in with his horde of gold?

We cannot help but wonder why one of his rivals might not pluck up the courage to give him a little push as he stands tottering. But those next in line, Alfred Jabu and Abang Johari, have been emasculated and lack the killer instinct, not to mention the necessary wit.

James Masing has been striving to be seen in public with Taib as frequently as possible. He has even made stupid statements to the press in Sarawak that Penan rape victims or their NGO supporters might be liars and should be investigated by the police.

Putting on a less grotesque face in Oxford, Masing was heard telling the press that the Sarawak government is “always ready” to engage with NGOs to discuss the Penan issue. Perhaps he thinks threats are a form of engagement.

His statements are strewn with boasts that he is a trained anthropologist. I have no doubt the Angel of Death Josef Mengele would have insisted that his underlings address him as “Herr Doktor”, in the same vein. Masing too, brings shame to the great contributions of past anthropologists like Needham and Benedict Anderson.

Masing betrays a singular obsession with using “Us” and “Them” when he refers to the Penan, as if he is somehow able to draw clear borders between fellow human beings.

But Masing knows deep down that he cannot scrabble his way to the top, because he lacks the necessary business and political connections.

So Taib’s future looks set: struggling on as Chief Minister, desperately trying to elevate his son to power, despite Sulaiman’s obstinacy and fecklessness.

Taib is likely to die in office, causing a protracted power struggle among Jabu, Johari, Awang Tengah, Masing and hangers-on like Adenan Satem.

Taib’s legacy in Sarawak will be ongoing corruption and bad politics, as well as endemic poverty and ignorance, for many years to come.

And if Pakatan forms an alternative government in the future? Sarawakians will still have to pull together to draw the poison of money politics and ethnic division, spread throughout our beautiful state by Taib and his followers.

Affirmative action uncertainty affecting FDI, says Nazir


Wrangling over affirmative action in the proposed New Economic Model (NEM) is causing uncertainty among investors, said top banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak.

The CIMB Bank chief executive officer said that there was a lot of debate over what sort of affirmative action should be in the NEM, notably involving vocal Malay rights group Perkasa, and the government needed to decide quickly for the sake of giving investors a sense of direction.

“Dealing with the new version of NEP is sensitive and there is all sorts of speculation but this period needs to be cut short,” Nazir told a law conference here today, referring to the New Economic Policy (NEP).

“My worry is that it is taking too long. Let’s just decide what affirmative action will remain.”

Nazir, whose brother is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, added that Malaysia could be losing out in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) due to the uncertainty.

“If I come this year I may need a Bumi partner but next year I may not, so wait lah,” he said by way of illustration.

The Najib administration has been trying to lift Malaysia’s profile as a destination for foreign investment to help the country achieve an average GDP growth of at least 6 per cent per annum over the next five years in an effort to become a high income nation.

The country’s FDI rates have fallen faster than other regional players like Singapore and China, and at the same time capital outflows have dampened private domestic investments. Net portfolio and direct investment outflows had reached US$61 billion (RM197 billion) in 2008 and 2009 according to official data.

More recently the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2010 said that FDI inflows to Malaysia dropped 81 per cent to RM4.4 billion last year from RM23 billion in 2008.

Nazir was guest speaker at the 15th Malaysia Law Conference organised by the Bar Council.

Nazir last month repeated his call for a review of the NEP adding that the policy has been unfair to the majority of Malays. He said the time has come for the government to protect the interest of the majority of the Malays and not just selected few.

“I have met a Malay professional overseas who refused to return to Malaysia because he is of the view that successful Malays are not welcomed in the country. This is because the Malays’ success is always linked to NEP,” said Nazir in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia published on June 20.

“In fact some of them refused to return thinking that the NEP is not for them but only to selected Malay groups, so they are better off working overseas,” he said when asked if the new generation of Malays are more open to reviewing the policy.

However, Nazir said certain aspect of the NEP such as scholarships allocation should be retained.

“Those who have been trying to stop efforts to review the NEP are those who are benefiting from the NEP. That was why some contractors were not happy with open tender but they never ask if they get the job, what would happen to other Malay contractors. Why refuse to compete?” said Nazir to a question on the opposition to a review of the NEP.

He said that the policy, introduced during the premiership of his father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 1971 has deviated from its original objective

courtesy of Malaysian Insider