MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Don’t stop speaking out for Palestine, says Muda chief


Acting Muda president Amira Aisya Abd Aziz was among the speakers at the six-day pro-Palestinian rally in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians have been urged to continue speaking out for the cause of Palestinians amid the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Acting Muda president Amira Aisya Abd Aziz said those who truly support the Palestinians must not let up in gathering in solidarity with them, or speaking up on social media.

“We must pile on the pressure on the major countries. We must keep the pressure on the United States,” she said at a pro-Palestine rally outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

“Tonight, those who are parents get to be with their children. Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians can no longer be with their families. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian parents will not get to see their children grow up,” she said.

Amira said US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could no longer silence the world. “The world knows the truth and stands with Palestine,” she said, drawing cheers from the crowd at a six-day gathering.

Other political figures who also addressed the crowd at the gathering include Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, PKR vice-president Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and DAP central executive committee member Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali. - FMT

Only 1,675 people left in flood relief centres


Flood victims are being housed in Pasir Mas, Tumpat, Kuala Krai, Maran, Cameron Highlands and Segamat. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of flood victims in three states has dropped to 1,675 people in 16 relief centres tonight, the National Disaster Management Agency said.

The number of evacuees in Kelantan continued to decrease to 1,587, housed in 12 relief centres in Pasir Mas, Tumpat and Kuala Krai.

In Pahang, 34 people are housed at relief centres in Maran, while 87 landslide victims in Cameron Highlands continue to seek shelter in a relief centre in the district.

The number of flood victims in Johor remains unchanged at 54 people in two relief centres in Segamat .

Four rivers are at dangerous levels: Sungai Pulai in Johor (4.41 metres); Sungai Golok in Kelantan (9.47m); Sungai Perak in Perak (111.9m); and Sungai Arau in Perlis (23.79m).

The report said 35 roads are closed due to floods, bridge damage, and landslides. - FMT

Family of murdered Dutch model appeals to Anwar for help


A lawyer representing the family of Ivana Smit has asked Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to intervene in the investigation into her death. (Instagram pic)

PETALING JAYA: The family of a Dutch model Ivana Smit found dead in 2017 has asked Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to get answers from the police about the investigation into her murder, which reportedly began four years ago.

Smit, then 18, died after falling from a Kuala Lumpur condominium unit occupied by an American couple, on Dec 7, 2017.

S├ębas Diekstra, a lawyer representing the Smit family, said there has been complete silence from the police since a press conference in 2019.

“The family has not received any updates. No information at all,” he told FMT.

Diekstra had earlier tweeted urging Anwar to become involved in the case, in the absence of any communication from the police.

“There are many important questions that remain unanswered. Is there a third party involved in her death?” he said in his tweet.

“I would like to appeal to Anwar to instruct those in authority to do something. His involvement will help to get justice for Smit and her family,” he said in the post, also tagging Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Rutte had previously phoned then-prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob last August. He said Ismail assured him there would be a transparent investigation into Smit’s death.

In 2019, a High Court judge, Collin Lawrence Sequerah, had ruled that Smit’s death was due to “person or persons unknown”.

Five days later, then CID director Huzir Mohamed announced that a task force would investigate the case, which was then reclassified from one of sudden death to murder.

A Dutch pathologist, who took a second look at Smit’s body, found signs that she had struggled before she died, based on bruises on her arms.

Smit had moved to Penang in 2002 at the age of three to live with her grandparents.

FMT has sought comment from the police. - FMT

Father and son go on East-West Highway just to help stranded motorists


Amir Faizal, with his teenage son, Adam, are always ready to help motorists they meet when travelling on the East-West Highway. (Mohd Amir Faizal Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: For the past 10 years, without any publicity, a father and son team has been making regular trips along the East-West Highway between Gerik and Jeli in the north with one mission – to help motorists on the road.

Bernama reported that this has become a routine for Amir Faizal and his teenage son, Adam, from Sungai Petani, Kedah.

Over the past two years, it has been their hobby to embark on these journeys.

They have undertaken numerous rescue operations, helping with accidents, flat tyres and removing fallen trees along the stretch that crosses the mountainous and forested main range.

They depart from their home in Bandar Seri Astana, Sungai Petani, around 9am, reaching Batu Melintang, Jeli, by lunchtime, covering 400km. They then return home.

“This road is a form of therapy for me because I can see the lush greenery and have the chance to witness wildlife, such as elephants. This has a calming effect on me,” Amir, a trader, said.

Amir drives a Proton Exora equipped with a chainsaw, emergency kit, fire extinguisher and jumper cables to assist anyone in need.

Amir, 45, said his experience in rescue work dated back 10 years, when he became a volunteer with the Civil Defence Force (APM).

At first, his voluntary service was only focused on residents in Sungai Petani but now he offer his services wherever he goes, especially on the Gerik-Jeli route.

The holiday season keeps him busy, with potholes, landslides and fallen trees blocking the road.

“On one trip, I came across four cars with flat tyres due to potholes. I’ve also often helped clear fallen trees obstructing the road.”

Amir hopes to continue doing his voluntary work as long as his health permits.

A regular user of the highway, Ahmad Fauzi Azizan, hopes the authorities set up rest areas along this highway.

He said this highway has seen increasing traffic over the years as it was an important route to the east coast from Kedah, Perlis and Penang. - FMT

4 hurt after power supply room catches fire in Sungai Way


A large plume of smoke rising above the free trade zone in Sungai Way, Selangor, this evening after fire destroyed a transformer room. (PDRM pic)

PETALING JAYA: A power supply room caught fire at the free trade zone in Sungai Way here this evening, with a large plume of smoke visible from the Federal Highway.

Petaling Jaya police chief Fakhrudin Abdul Hamid said four contract workers sustained injuries and have been brought to a hospital for treatment.

According to Bernama, Fakhrudin said the victims only suffered burns to their limbs and are in stable condition.

The fire and rescue department said it was alerted to the incident at 5.53pm and that the fire was starting to spread to nearby buildings on Jalan SS8/1 when firefighters arrived.

Three fire engines were deployed to put out the blaze, with the fire brought under control in about 44 minutes, according to Fakhrudin.

A 400 sq ft electrical transformer room is said to have been completely destroyed by the fire. - FMT

Royal couple, national leaders pray for greater unity in new year


The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, extended new year greetings to the nation. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: National unity and harmony formed the theme of new year’s day messages from the King and Queen and national leaders today.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, said they prayed for the continued unity and harmony of the nation.

“May the entire nation be blessed with prosperity, well-being, and abundance and be protected from any disasters and calamities. May we also be granted health, unity, and lasting harmony,” the royal couple said in their message to greet the new year.

Similar hopes were expressed by Malaysia’s two deputy prime ministers, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Fadillah Yusof.

Zahid said he hoped Malaysians would continue to be united in achieving more meaningful success for the country in the new year, Bernama reported.

In a video message, he said he hoped to see a Malaysia that is peaceful, progressive and prosperous in 2024, which he predicted would be “filled with a desire for prosperity and a more meaningful life”.

Fadillah urged all Malaysians irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds, religion, political leanings and ideologies, to aspire towards further strengthening unity.

Fadillah said unity is the main key to racial harmony, the well-being of the people and the country as well as the prosperity of the nation.

“This is crucial so that no one will play politics any more, instead everyone will focus on economic recovery, developing the country and ensuring the well-being of the people, especially in the face of global economic uncertainty and increasingly challenging world geopolitical tensions,” he wrote in a post on Facebook today. - FMT

Keep boycotting Israel-linked brands, Dr M urges Malaysians


Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking to those attending a six-day protest outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur tonight.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Malaysians to continue boycotting products or brands linked to Israel or any country supporting Israel amid the current conflict in the Middle East.

“We have to continue our boycott efforts because they (the companies involved) are the ones that support Israel’s acts of killing Palestinians,” Mahathir said at a six-day pro-Palestine gathering outside the US embassy here.

Mahathir also urged Putrajaya to take stronger action against the US, which he accused of contributing to the deaths of Palestinians.

“Yes, we still have diplomatic ties with the US due to commercial activities, but there are still other ways to show that we disapprove of the US attitude towards the killing of Palestinians,” he said, without elaborating on the “stronger action” Putrajaya can take.

The former Umno president said he had never witnessed a war as cruel as the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, despite having witnessed many wars and military conflicts in his lifetime.

He said the Israeli military has disregarded basic human rights and claimed their goal was to wipe out Palestine instead of winning the war.

On Dec 9, the US vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza conflict. The decision was criticised by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim the same day. He said he was saddened by the “outrageous decision” taken by the US.

In October, Anwar said Malaysia had received three “demarches”, or diplomatic notices, from the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur seeking to change Malaysia’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Hamas. The US had asked Malaysia twice to change its position of refusing to recognise Hamas as a terrorist group. - FMT

We didn’t start McDonald’s boycott, says BDS Malaysia


Nazari Ismail, chairman of BDS Malaysia, said the group had only supported a campaign started by ordinary Malaysians.

KUALA LUMPUR: A movement promoting boycotts against Israeli interests has denied initiating a boycott of McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia, claiming the boycott was first begun by ordinary Malaysians.

BDS Malaysia chairman Nazari Ismail said the group had merely supported the efforts of Malaysians who wished to boycott McDonald’s Malaysia.

“We never held any campaigns (calling for a boycott of McDonald’s Malaysia). We didn’t start it. But we supported the movement, we did not oppose,” he told reporters when met at the six-day pro-Palestine gathering outside the US embassy here.

He said McDonald’s Malaysia was suing the group “saying we incited the people (to boycott) and slandered them”. He said BDS had replied to say the group endorsed and supported the Malaysian people’s decision to boycott McDonald’s Malaysia.

BDS is part of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement seeking action against Israel.

Nazari said BDS’s legal team was confident that McDonald’s Malaysia had no basis for its RM6 million defamation suit. He said he was puzzled why the restaurant chain was suing them.

“We leave it to the courts,” he said, adding that he hoped Malaysians would support the group financially in terms of legal costs, if necessary.

McDonald’s Malaysia has accused BDS of defaming the fast-food franchise through its calls for a boycott for purportedly “colluding with Israel”.

A statement of claim dated Dec 19 was filed by McDonald’s Malaysia franchise owner Gerbang Alaf Restaurants Sdn Bhd.

It seeks an unconditional apology from BDS and RM6 million in damages, comprising RM3 million for loss of revenue, RM1.5 million for employees who were laid off and RM1.5 million for expiry of materials.

Gerbang Alaf Restaurants also seeks an injunction against BDS from calling for a boycott. The statement also made reference to several posters which included McDonald’s Malaysia logo which were shared by BDS relating to companies allegedly “profiting from the genocide”. - FMT

Don’t let political leanings drive us into insulting others, says PM


Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in a video address today about how a recent speech he made was misinterpreted, leading to excessive criticism.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has spoken out against those who resort to insulting others out of blind devotion to certain political parties, including Islamic preachers and scholars.

Anwar said a recent speech he gave where he touched on a story mentioned in the Surah Al-Kahfi in the Quran was misinterpreted by certain quarters, leading to “excessive and unacceptable” criticism even from preachers and scholars.

According to Bernama, the prime minister said these figures would criticise, curse and even slander others who are not aligned with their political leanings, out of blind devotion to a party.

Anwar said his intention was to remind public servants that economic development, national progress and good governance should be aligned with Islamic values and morals.

He added that there are better ways to voice differing opinions instead of resorting to excessive criticism, particularly “constructive discourse”.

“I touched on the story of the seven young men mentioned in the Surah Al-Kahfi in the Quran, where during that time, the unjust system, government and a cruel king who worshipped idols were rejected by the believers, including these youths who took refuge in a cave.

“The message is about the steadfastness of the young men’s faith that shielded them from polytheism and depravity. Therefore, it is appropriate for civil servants to learn from this story,” he said.

Earlier this month, a preacher in Terengganu reportedly misinterpreted Anwar’s remarks during this speech. Anwar said the preacher did not listen to his full speech.

The prime minister also told the preacher to listen to the context of his speech and not to be “hasty in following political sentiments”. - FMT

Govt unity has proven naysayers wrong, says Fahmi


Government spokesman Fahmi Fadzil said the government’s stability was built on the cooperation between former rival coalitions. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The unity government has proven its naysayers wrong and shown that it can unite for the people despite claims the Anwar Ibrahim-led administration would be unstable, says government spokesman Fahmi Fadzil.

The communications minister said Anwar’s government had been able to come up with several “historic” policies in the past year governing the country, including the Madani economic framework, progressive wage policy and energy transition roadmap, among others.

These policies, he said, were thanks to the strength and stability of the unity government, which brought together previously rival coalitions such as Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional.

“In this past year, certain quarters tried to play up all kinds of made-up stories and myths, including that the Madani government would not be stable. That there would be infighting.

“But during this year, the Madani government has proven that we can unite in carrying out our duties and focusing on our work to help the rakyat.

“We have started well. God-willing, this journey will continue. May 2024 be better for all of us,” he said in a posting on X, formerly Twitter.

Following the formation of the unity government, Bersatu’s Wan Saiful Wan Jan claimed that the administration was unstable and could be threatened by BN at any time.

The Tasek Gelugor MP said the Perikatan Nasional government that was led by the coalition’s chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, and made up of PN and BN ministers led by then Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, faced the same predicament.

Speculation of a plot to topple Anwar as prime minister around May prompted Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar to express concern over the apparent political instability, saying “enough is enough” and that Malaysia’s economic recovery must be the priority. - FMT

A pioneer’s passing: Sharing the wisdom of late Ramesh


Last month, one of Malaysia’s pioneer generations passed on. Kuantan-born Ramesh Chander was Malaysia’s first chief statistician at the age of 28.

He lived a rich and meaningful life until the age of 88. In his career, he helped to build Malaysia’s statistical foundation notably with the 1970 census and shaped the New Economic Policy (NEP).

At the World Bank from 1977 through 1996, Ramesh (above) was pivotal in creating the World Development Indicators, national account systems and measures of living standards.

Known for his statistical contributions, what is less appreciated is his deep commitment to Malaysia as a development economist. Through engagement, knowledge-sharing (often inter-generational) and the occasional commentary, Ramesh worked to strengthen Malaysia’s economy, pushing for needed reforms.

He was a cherished friend and mentor. In the weeks before his passing, we met as we often did over two-plus decades to discuss and debate. The subject of the day was almost always, Malaysia.

Throughout his life, Ramesh never gave up hope for a stronger country, always looking for solutions. He avoided the bitterness of many of his generation and focused on broader reforms rather than personalities.

On our last day of in-person conversation, we spoke of writing another article together. Unfortunately, he was soon hospitalised, so this column, at the end of the year, shares many of the points we discussed in his memory instead.

Getting out of old development modes

An avid reader of reports (believing that the details, data and how they were gathered matter), Ramesh started with a discussion of the mid-term review of 12th Malaysia Plan and Budget 2024. His two main concerns were revenue and the lack of a new development trajectory.

As earlier governments have done, the revenue projections were seen to be too optimistic, and the base for revenue was inadequate. He worried about the social impact of raising taxes on consumption and an unwillingness to grapple with the narrowness of Malaysia’s tax base.

His main concern, however, was the continuation of project-driven development, as laid out (and continued in the review) in the 12th Malaysia Plan.

He argued that the time for five-year plans was over, that they were reinforcing the patronage culture deeply embedded in the nexus of politics and economy.

Ramesh had long held that Malaysia had not fundamentally addressed the underlying causes that contributed to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-1998, and that the pattern of growth that prioritised government spending over a more competitive private-sector-driven economy was undercutting Malaysia’s prosperity.

A new poverty trap

He praised the greater attention to poverty by the Anwar Ibrahim-led government, believing that the need to address socio-economic inequalities should be a critical goal.

Given his role in helping to shape the NEP, and the differences he had over implementation and measurement of the policy, his attention to poverty reduction was not a surprise.

Ramesh spoke of the need to improve data, to open up how calculations about poverty are being made and to rethink the framing of analytical tools to measure socioeconomic disadvantage.

We debated the effectiveness of cash transfers and subsidy removal, two measures that are commonly advocated by the World Bank. We spoke of the need for a more robust social safety net not tied to politically driven cash transfers, as well as the need to measure the varied effectiveness of these transfers.

What is sorely missing from Malaysia’s poverty-reduction policy are assessments of what is working and what is not. There are very few studies of how dependence on patronage and cash transfers limit social mobility and how different cultural conditions among different communities impact socio-economic conditions.

Little is understood about inter-generational poverty in Malaysia, for example.

We agreed that the inputs shaping the understanding of poverty in Malaysia are too narrow. We also worried about the implementation of poverty reduction in a pattern that has been highly politicised and often fails to understand the serious conditions of those in poverty, including limited access to the internet.

Asking for data to be checked by the public seems, for example, to miss the factors that may limit those to be able to do so.

Perhaps the most difficult issue is that of the NEP. While this important policy did significantly reduce poverty and increase social mobility, especially through 1990, it also left an imprint on Malaysian society - entrenching the racialisation of policy and constraining the ability to adopt new frameworks to promote social mobility.

Over and over, often in different names but with many of the same assumptions and framing, this model is used as the basis for new programmes. In this regard, Malaysia is caught in a poverty trap of needing new frameworks to address the socio-economic challenges of a new time.

A Malaysian question

Ramesh left Malaysia at a difficult time, in the tumultuous time of the 1970s, an era when many of the pioneers of Malaysia’s nation-building were felt not to be valued. Unlike many others in his peer group, Ramesh remained committed to Malaysia, not choosing to leave his beloved country behind.

We discussed the Anwar government’s disappointing dismissive approach to Malaysia’s Indian community, an irony given the political activism of the 2007-2008 Hindraf movement that helped to reignite hopes of reform and strengthen the political advances of his coalition.

What Ramesh emphasised, however, was the need for underlying economic reforms to change conditions for all the communities, and to move away from a predominantly race-based framing of policies. He firmly believed that when all Malaysians rise, so does Malaysia.

Throughout his lifetime, Ramesh remained a nation-building pioneer in his love for Malaysia and his vision of a country of all communities.

He saw the problems of the country as not of one community or region but rather as one for Malaysia. He saw opportunities in constraints and hope in discontent.

As the year ends, when we reflect on the year past and look to the future, we remember and honour our friends who have passed on.

We hope that some of the lessons shared stay with us, and that the spirit and commitment of the nation-building pioneers remain alive. - Mkini

BRIDGET WELSH is an honourary research associate of the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute, a senior research associate at Hu Fu Center for East Asia Democratic Studies, and a senior associate fellow at The Habibie Centre. Her writings can be found at bridgetwelsh.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.