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Monday, January 31, 2011

Say What? Ketuanan Rakyat?

Say What? Ketuanan Rakyat?

It has indeed been a strange and surreal one month in Selangor. You have the spectacle of a state government grappling with the problem of having as its top civil servant a person who is not to its liking. And all the time while doing this, it had neither the courage nor the honesty to admit what the real problem is

The real problem that the Menteri Besar of Selangor has to contend with is not Mohd Khusrin Munawi per se, but rather the poor relations that the MB has with the Palace.”–Aktivis Reformasi

by Aktivis Reformasi*, via e-mail

It has indeed been a strange and surreal one month in Selangor. You have the spectacle of a state government grappling with the problem of having as its top civil servant a person who is not to its liking. And all the time while doing this, it had neither the courage nor the honesty to admit what the real problem is.

Thus, it is like trying to untie a bothersome knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are. You’ll just end up looking like a fool. The real problem that the Menteri Besar of Selangor has to contend with is not Mohd Khusrin Munawi per se, but rather the poor relations that the MB has with the Palace.

Had the Palace decided that it would agree with the advice of the MB to change the recent appointment of the state secretary after the slip-up caused by the MB’s own tardiness in responding to the Public Service Commission’s request for the state’s list of nominees, the impasse would have been broken or wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.

So, because he didn’t have the courage or the honesty to admit to his failings, the MB went about to untie the knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are. Muddle-headedness and blunders inevitably ensued.

The first was to succumb and dance to the opportunistic tune of his political detractors that anything which smacks of being critical of the palace constitutes sedition or ‘derhaka’ (treachery). This is a total misreading of public sentiment on the matter.

The MB seems to have forgotten that when Mahathir Mohamad pushed through the 1993 constitutional amendments on the role of the monarchy, cheered on by his ever so willing deputy Anwar Ibrahim, support for the amendments was enormous from both sides of the political divide.

No one accused anyone of being treacherous. The public did and probably still do want the monarchy’s role to be limited and better defined constitutionally.

In the present state secretary impasse, however, his detractors’ opportunistic pro-royalty stance was vociferous enough to cow the MB into deciding that it was politically unpalatable for his party to even let out a whimper calling for the palace to stick to constitutional forms and conventions. From then on, everything that happened was in the realm of charades with all sides involved assiduously ignoring the elephant in the room, which was the deviation from constitutional conventions.

The second blunder was to personalise the impasse into the person of Mohd Khusrin. Despite its past disdain for his actions when he was the head of the state religious department, the state government should have had the discipline and clarity of thought to maintain that the issue at hand was not about the personality but the manner by which the appointment was made.

That is to say, had the best civil servant in the country been appointed as state secretary in the same said manner, the state government would still have objected because constitutional norms and conventions had not been abided with. But to take such a principled stand, sadly, seems to be a notion so very alien to a government which purports to be the champion of Reformasi and Ketuanan Rakyat.

The third blunder was to resort to amending the state constitution to grant more powers to the palace in the appointment of the top three civil service posts on the state. By what strange logic such a move would solve the MB’s problematic relationship with the palace, no one could fathom. That the attempt would fail must certainly had been anticipated by the state government.

So the exercise of a special sitting to amend the state’s constitution could be put down as a feeble attempt in political point-scoring and to ‘democratise’ the impasse by trapping the state assemblymen from the opposition to declare whether they are ‘pro-rakyat’ or otherwise, in accordance to the MB’s perverted sense of logic. That’s putting it kindly.

What seems to have escaped the MB is that it also gives the impression of a government wanting to make wanton use of constitutional amendments to cover up its own leadership shortcomings and incompetence. How different then is a Pakatan Rakyat government from any other ruling party in its blase attitude towards the sanctity of the constitution?

After all that has been said and done, the state government is back at square one and nowhere near solving the impasse. Astonishingly, the MB now appears amenable to having Mohd Khusrin as the state secretary. So what was the previous one month all about? One can only assume that he’s finally realised that he has been trying to untie a knot without knowing where the ends of the rope are – and has only managed to look like a fool in the process.

If there is one lesson from all these, it is that if we want ketuanan rakyat and genuine reformasi, we won’t get it from spineless and gormless political leaders, such as the ones you have in the Selangor state government. My sympathies go out to all those honest folk who really thought those same politicians had the courage and competence to achieve those goals.

God permitting, the truth about these pretenders to the throne will be revealed sooner rather than later.

*Aktivisi Reformasi is personally known to me. I, however, respect his wish to keep his true identity confidential.–Din Merican

UMNO and its rational leader


A friend who campaigned rigorously in Tenang for the BN told me he has to play host most of the times. I hope UMNO will not let this victory go to its head. They need to compare the votes they got in 2008 with what they got now. Its majority increased by a little more than 300 votes. That doesn't matter though because a victory is a victory by any other name.

But to read more into this marginal increase, is a big mistake. UMNO's support, despite the millions poured in, remained more or less the same. PAS of course, suffered more in the sense the deficit they got now has widened.

The flood was actually a godsend for UMNO. SPR needs to answer whether use of their facilities to transport flood victims was applied in a fair manner. But I think this aspect must be argued by the other side. As for me, I am more concerned not to let this minor victory be an excuse for UMNO to stop doing reforms.

Let's discuss another matter. Lee Kuan Yew's recent book, Hard Truths. In there, he said many bad things about Dr Mahathir, about Islam and about Malays in general. But these were not paid attention to by the MSM.

They were more interested to extract any broad-brush by Lee Kuan Yew imputing some positiveness about Najib. Malaysians love to hate LKY but if you get some compliments from him, LKY is your hero.

Hence the hungry Press which holds no good feelings about Lee Kuan Yew, blared the headlines that LKY thinks Najib is a rational leader. I don't understand the MSM's love hate relationship with LKY. Undeniably they can't dismiss LKY because that man is acknowledged by the world. Malaysia will stand out as a prick, if it doesn't join in the general salutations of LKY.

The Press would love to needle LKY on any issues. But this time, its LKY's approval of Najib as a rational leader that is being headlined. That would have been met with universal nod, if not for the fact, the MSM failed to qualify in what context is Najib a rational leader?

I mean the MSM people are myopic to ignore the fact, that Najib's rationality as a leader is a qualified statement. That term used, needed to be expanded.

In what sense, can Najib be regarded as a rational leader? Unluckily for the MSM people, there are many of us who also read the book. By the way- I would love to see how the MSM would respond when LKY said- on page 86:-

.their press has lost credibility. The position of the media on television and print was so divorced from reality that people look for alternative channels. So bloggers, Malaysiakini, Harakah, opposition newspapers fill up the space.

These form 5 journalists think we the public don't read books or what?

Please wait for my next article on Najib, the rational leader.

In Tenang, Malay votes won the day for BN

Azahar swept to victory on the strength of Malay support yesterday. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — More than half of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 1,200-vote gain over PAS in Tenang was due to increased Malay support in the constituency, DAP statistics have shown.

Malays who had in 2008 voted against Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s stewardship of BN or abstained from the general election, came out to signal its support for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration.

The Malays make up about 49 per cent of the 14,753 voters in Tenang. Chinese account for over 38 per cent and Indians, 12 per cent.

Umno’s Azahar Ibrahim received 83.3 per cent of Malay votes, up four percentage points from Election 2008, said DAP publicity chief Tony Pua on Twitter earlier today.

A Malay turnout of 81 per cent yesterday, up two points from 2008, translated to a 700-vote increase.

BN’s 3,707-vote majority was also due to Chinese voters skipping yesterday’s by-election.

Although Normala Sudirman managed to hold on to PAS’s 64 per cent Chinese support from the 2008 general election, an 18-point fall in turnout resulted in another 300-vote gain for BN’s majority.

Despite a 30 per cent increase in Indian votes for BN, less than 40 per cent turned up to vote. The lower Indian turnout meant BN only secured 200-vote increase from the hike in proportions.

Overall, Azahar polled 6,699 votes against Normala, who took 2,992 votes from the 12 polling districts.

A total of 9,833 voters or 67 per cent of the 14,753 electorate turned up to cast their ballots, nearly 1,000 fewer than in 2008.

BN had initially targeted a victory margin of 5,000 votes, similar to Election 2004.

It retained Tenang in 2008 by 2,492 votes. - Malaysian Insider

‘Nik Aziz splits Muslims here and hereafter’

The former premier takes the PAS leader to task, saying that the latter's biggest accomplishment is dividing the Muslims here.

PETALING JAYA: Finding the PAS spiritual leader’s comments a bitter pill to swallow, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad needles Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and the Islamic party.

According to the 85-year-old statesman, the Kelantan menteri besar, who is five years his junior, has divided Muslims in Malaysia.

This, he said, is PAS and Nik Aziz’s greatest accomplishment over the decades.

Mahathir is sore with the PAS leader’s statement that the Malays in Malaysia rejected Islam more than Singapore’s former premier Lee Kuan Yew.

“It seems that Nik Aziz prefers to sieze the opportunity to condemn his political rivals instead of defending Islam and Muslims against Lee’s attack,” he said in a blog posting.

He added that Nik Aziz considered the Malay nationalists’ brand of Islam much worse.

“During the time of the British, many Malay luminaries drank alcohol and Muslim workers consumed toddy. There were very few mosques, and not many Muslims prayed,” he said.

However, Mahathir added, the Malay nationalists’ struggle changed this: alcohol was banned from official functions, Islamic values were absorbed into the administration, government funds were used for Islamic activities, more mosques were built and much more.

“But what did PAS and Nik Aziz do? Their biggest contribution was dividing the Muslims. The formation of PAS itself divided the community after the Malays had united under Umno,” he said.

Mahathir went on to cite other examples of how PAS sows the seeds of divisiveness, such as forbidding PAS members form marrying those from Umno, barring them from attending “kenduri” (receptions) held by Umno people, as well as having separate cemeteries for PAS and Umno people.

“It is as if PAS wants the divisiness among Malay Muslims to continue in the hereafter,” he added.

New lease of life

When PAS contested the general elections (1955 until 1986), Mahathir said, the party accused Umno of working with non-Muslims, and therefore becoming “kafir” (infidels).

“Then PAS joined forces with Semangat 46 and DAP in the 1990 and 1995 general elections. With this, the Umno splinter group, Semangat 46, was given a new lease of life and the Malays were split into three groups.

“Thank God, Semangat 46 returned to Umno and the Malay Muslim unity in Umno was healed. But when the then deputy president of Umno (Anwar Ibrahim) was sacked, Nik Aziz promptly gave him strong support so that the next splinter party to be formed could lure more members away from Umno,” he said.

“With Nik Aziz’s support, the Malays were once again split into three groups,” he added.

Not contented with this, Mahathir said, Nik Aziz was also willing to work with the Chinese-dominated DAP to form the opposition alliance.

“The accusation that Umno had become kafir for working with non-Muslims was forgotten in order to make the alliance a strong adversary of Umno. With this, Nik Aziz ensured that the splitting of Malays into three weak groups remained intact.

“This is Nik Aziz’s contribution to Islam in Malaysia; he had disregarded one of Islam’s most important teachings, which is the brotherhood of Muslims,” he said.

Mahathir added that Nik Aziz’s version of Islam is worse than that of the nationalists because he is prepared to defend Lee, who urged Muslims in Singapore not to be overzealous in their faith.

“Imagine Islam under the rule of Nik Aziz and (DAP stalwarts) Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. If his non-Muslim friends feel that Islamic teachings should be relaxed, Nik Aziz may agree to this,” he said. - FMT

RON97 up 10 sen/L at midnight, sources say

RON97 is subject to a managed float. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The price of RON97 petrol will be increased by 10 sen to RM2.50 effective midnight, according to industry sources.

The price of the premium fuel was last raised on January 4, also by 10 sen.

The government announced on July 16 last year that the price of RON97 will be subjected to a managed float to reflect the price of oil on the global market.

The latest increase will, however, not affect other fuels.

The base grade RON95 petrol remains at RM1.90 per litre, diesel at RM1.80 per litre, and LPG at RM1.90 per kg. The government currently subsidises 30 sen of the RON 95 fuel cost.

The Najib administration has opted to gradually slash subsidies as a way to reduce government deficit.

The government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) had said last year that savings from fuel subsidy cuts amounted to about RM3 billion last year. This number will rise to RM14 billion this year, RM21 billion in 2012, RM29.5 billion in 2013, and RM35 billion in 2014. - Malaysian Insider

Selangor touts arbitration as takeover bid sinks

The Khalid administration’s offer required a unanimous decision from the concessionaires. —file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The Selangor government has repeated its call for international arbitration to fix a fair price for water players’ assets and liabilities, following their rejection of the state’s takeover offer.

The state government said in a statement today, however, that none of Selangor’s four concessionaires appeared interested in this proposal, which it says is the “best method” for settling the issue of value.

Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) declined the state government’s RM9.3 billion offer, while Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd (PSNB) and sister company Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) both issued requests for clarification.

Kumpulan ABASS Sdn Bhd was the only concessionaire that accepted conditionally but the offer lapsed as the Selangor government had stipulated that all four players must accept the offer together or not at all.

Selangor will discuss with Putrajaya how best to proceed following this latest setback in the state’s two-year battle to consolidate the water industry, the statement added.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had stressed last Thursday that the state government will not raise its most recent offer for the concessionaires’ assets and liabilities, which expired 5pm today.

“The state reiterates that there is a need to reform the lopsided privatisation of the water industry which has denied the people of Selangor efficient, high quality water services at reasonable rates,” the statement from the Selangor mentri besar’s press secretariat said.

“We urge the federal government to consult with the state government and together find the best way possible to return the right to affordable water back to the people.”

The Malaysian Insider had reported last month that Selangor will offer about RM5.7 billion to acquire the remaining state water assets, while leaving its present owners to pay off their own liabilities.

Selangor’s four water players are at risk of debt payment default as water bonds approach their maturity dates.

The debt service problem started when Syabas was barred from implementing a 37 per cent tariff hike agreed upon in January 2009 after the Selangor government claimed the sole water distributor had not done enough to reduce leakages which cost the state millions.

This, in turn, led to payment problems between Syabas and water treatment concessionaires PNSB, Splash and Konsortium ABASS, who supply it with treated water.

Selangor, which already owns 80 per cent of the state’s water supply assets, is preparing to take over the remaining assets after Putrajaya said it did not object to direct negotiations between the state government and concessionaires.

It intends to retain management of the water assets, which also cover the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The state government has made two previous offers for the water assets.

The first offer, RM5.7 billion for assets and equity, was turned down by all four players, while the second RM9.4 billion offer — this time including liabilities — was rejected by Syabas and sister company PNSB.

The two-year water consolidation impasse began soon after Pakatan Rakyat (PR) took control of Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state, in the last general election.

Since then, privatisation plans for the water industry have been put in deep freeze as federal and state governments engage in what industry watchers call “excessive politicking”.

PR wants to control the state’s water assets so it can fulfil its promise to keep water cheap for Selangor residents by controlling tariffs. - Malaysian Insider

ALIRAN's 'Thinking Allowed online' column - successful 1st year


ALIRAN celebrates its first year of its launch (1st February) of its regular column "Thinking Allowed online" http://aliran.com/ in its attempt to revamp their website and to increase its readership and interest for the Aliran cause since the Aliran Monthly publications are currently not available at most bookstores in Malaysia.

Subscription for the Aliran Monthly is still available and you can contact : http://aliran.com/subscribe-to-monthly for further details.

The idea for this launch was to look at the story behind the news and analyse the issues behind the headlines from a perspective of justice, human rights, multi-ethnic politics, and universal spiritual values – all that Aliran stands for. Aliran had been successful in this cause.

SYABAS to ALIRAN for having served the public with news and commentaries of interest to the Malaysian public.

Sabah floods: 2,084 evacuated in Kota Marudu, more rain ahead


KOTA KINABALU - Six days of non-stop storms and rain in northern Sabah has flooded a number of town rain, with the worst hit being Kota Marudu.

The situation there has become critical with 2,084 people from 19 low-lying villages evacuated to 10 relief centres by Monday with no signs of the weather letting up any time soon.

Kota Marudu MP Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, whop visited victims at evacuation centres, said that all necessary assistance was being provided to the victims and advised people not to take any unnecessary risk during the floods.

Flash floods were reported in Lahad Datu, Beluran and certain areas of Pitas while many rural roads, including those from plantations have been cut off by floods making it difficult for vegetable farmers to send their produce to the main towns.

On Saturday two people Lo Phang, 59, and Santi Muktar, 16, were in killed in landslips at Bandar Ramai in east coast Sandakan while bad weather was also blamed for the deaths of four people who drowned when their boat capsized on Friday near Tabangka island off Sandakan.

Weathermen are forecasting more rain, especially in the northern districts of Kota Marudu, Pitas, Sandakan and Beluran.

Meteorological Department director Abdul Malik Tussin said the bad weather from Jan 25 was due to strong easterly winds hitting Sabah’s north and east coast areas.

The rain and floods are expected to further worsen the soaring prices of seafood and vegetables ahead of Chinese New Year.

KDMs ‘pulling rug’ from under Sabah PKR


While Sabah PKR grapples with its leadership issues, on the ground disillusioned members are pledging allegiance to someone else.

ENTILIBON: Is Sabah PKR collapsing? It seems like it, at least as far as the “no impact” Kadazandusun Murut community is concerned.

Ironically, it is these people who were the backbone in PKR’s resurgence in Sabah over the last four years.

But the KL-centric PKR seems to be still in denial, going by its vice-president Fuziah Salleh’s recent statement.

Fuziah claimed that the resignation of its former vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan and officials of the party’s KadazandusunMurut Task Force has not impacted the party.

But on the ground, reality tells a different tale.

On Saturday, six PKR branch heads in Kuamut quit the beleaguered party and pledged allegiance to Jeffrey and his new movement United Borneo Front (UBF).

UBF, which was launched in December, will soon lead a Borneo Alliance comprising Snap (Sarawak Nasional Party) and possibly a Sabah-based party aimed at “returning” Sabah and

Sarawak back to its people and demanding that the federal government uphold the terms and tenets in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.

The six PKR branch leaders are from Linayukan, Sanan, Semundoh, Entilibon Asal, Simpang, and Singgahmata near here.

Also on Saturday, 11 Kinabatangan division leaders, led by its secretary, Jalibin Paidi, and information chief, Cyril Parantis, also left Sabah PKR.

These leaders claimed that they have the blessing and support of not less than 800 PKR members in the area.

Together they announced their decision to quit and join UBF at a function here.

Lost confidence in PKR

Entilibon, incidentally, sits in the centre of Sabah and 240 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu. It is a five-hour long and sometimes rough drive.

Entilibon sits within Kinabatangan, one of the country’s largest parliamentary seats in terms of size. It is held by Barisan Nasional’s infamous Bung Moktar Radin.

The division comprises the Kuamut and Sukau state constituencies. Both seats are held by BN – Kuamat (Johnny Intang) and Sukau (Aklee Abbas).

Kinabatangan is not Jeffrey’s first foray into rural Sabah.

Jeffrey has been criss-crossing the state since he left PKR last month. He has been meeting people and explaining his struggle and UBF’s role.

If the crowds are any gauge, he is being well received in many places and at each function scores of PKR leaders and members are pledging their support to him.

Ranau division information chief Jasmin Yumum, who was among those who announced his resignation and support for Jeffrey’s Borneo Agenda, said: “I have lost confidence in the party, both in Sabah and national.”

Another leader Jalibin Paidi said the fiasco in PKR proves that Sabahans cannot and should not rely on others to fight for their rights.

“We cannot rely on the Malayans to fight for us. We Sabahans must stand up for our own rights and assert our position as a nation within this country called Malaysia. We should not wait until everything is shattered in Sabah, then only we cry, it will be too late and useless.

“Now is the time we unite and assert our right,” he said. - FMT

16 Sabah branch chiefs quit PKR


A mass resignation by PKR members in the Kinabatangan region has given United Borneo Front a big boost.

SANDAKAN: Sixteen heads of PKR branches in the Entilibon zone in Kinabatangan resigned en bloc to join the United Borneo Front (UBF) headed by former party vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan.

The branches include Kampung Linayukan, Kampung Sanan, Kampung Semundoh, Kampung Entilibon Asal, Kampung Simpang, Kampung Singgahmata and other branches from Kinabatangan.

Eleven members of the PKR committee for the Kinabatangan region have also quit the party. They include secretary Jalibin Paidi, and information chief Cyril Parantis.

Some 875 members have also apparently tendered their resignation to follow their leaders to pursue UBF’s Borneo Agenda, with more members expected to follow in the next few days.

The exodus from the Kinabatangan region is seen as the clearest pledge of support for Jeffrey and his UBF.

The mass resignation is said to be the single biggest blow to PKR since Jeffrey and several other key leaders from its Kadazandusun Murut Task Force resigned from the party in December.

Jeffrey and the UBF team were in Entilibon as part of their “Borneo Tea Party” series aimed at educating Sabahans on local issues and the Borneo Agenda.

Villagers from various parts of Kinabatangan thronged the community centre in Kampung Entilibon 1 Tongod, a five-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, to welcome the convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles of UBF supporters who were preceded by 50 or more bikers clad in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with “United Borneo Front-Kinabatangan”.

Tired of being poor

The tea party, organised by UBF die-hards, Jalibin Paidi and James Aik, also included talks by Jeffrey and UBF co-founders, lawyer and activist Nilakrisna James and economist Zainal Ajamain.

Their sessions focused on economic and land issues affecting the Kinabatangan region as well as the 5% oil share from Petronas.

Going straight to the heart of the issue, Jeffrey said Sabahans have no choice but to address the unfair economic policies and the “laws which have silenced our voices of resentment and hindered our ability to be self-reliant”.

“People are sick and tired of their poverty… there are smallholder farmers in the interior who invested in palm oil but now feel cheated because of the low returns on their investment,” he said.

He pointed out that privately owned mills (some listed companies and some owned by local businessmen) paid smallholders between RM700 and RM800 per tonne for their palm oil fresh fruit bunches (FFB). But he said the smallholders sold these FFB without realising that the biomass from FFB such as kernel, kernel cakes and empty fruit bunch are more profitable, selling in the international market for RM1,200 to RM1,500 per tonne.

“The mills buy the FFB, extract the crude palm oil and then sell off the biomass as their own products.

“These by-products are important for fuel, especially for brick factories and animal feed. People are now angry… they know they are being short-changed by the mills.

“UBF suggests that smallholders form their own cooperative to determine a better price for their FBB or collect the biomass back from the mills and sell it on the international market,” he said.

Unfair laws

Jeffrey also talked about compulsory land acquisitions and finding a common ground to unite the people of Sabah and Sarawak, regardless of race and religion, and the importance of pushing for equal representation in Parliament.

He said that the current demographics put peninsula-based politicians in control of 75% of the seats so as to deny Sabah and Sarawak any veto power.

“If they wish to continue to amend our Federal Constitution and erode our rights or pass unfair laws to our disadvantage, they have their two-thirds majority, leaving us powerless in Sabah and Sarawak.

“This is a violation of our human rights and a breach of Article 8 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963,” Jeffrey said. - FMT