Monday, November 30, 2009

When Can The Local Government Election be Reinstated?

Before the 308 general election, both PKR and DAP had campaigned on the third vote or the reinstatement of local government elections.

I have a few questions for Pakatan leaders who are now going into the second year of their governance in Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Kelantan.

Has the local government election bill been drawn up?

When is the local government election bill is expected to be tabled at the state assemblies for approval?

When can the first local government election be held?

I hope this promise will end up like the ones (empty promises) we have seen and heard too often - against the law, hands are tied by the federal government or wait till Pakatan take over the federal government.

Pakatan should not harbour the thought of becoming the next Barisan. We want our two-party system and a healthy and competitive democracy.

Speaking of Arrogance, Mr PM

For Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, desperate time calls for desperate measure. He had prayed for Najib's political career and Umno’s future to be destroyed if the federal government refused to pay oil royalty to Kelantan.

Najib responded, “I cannot understand the need for such prayer because we have actually provided a compassionate fund for the people of Kelantan."

“By whatever name it is called, royalty or compassionate fund, the amount is still the same. And it is the people of Kelantan who are getting it, we will not be using it for other purposes.”

Najib clearly cannot differentiate between 'compassionate' and 'royalty'. The former is a voluntary but the latter is compulsory.

His word speaks volume of his deed. His government has a problem to respect and to comply with conventions, agreements, rule of law and the federal constitution.

No, you cannot simply call anything by whatever name. The consequence is crystal clear.

You cannot call us non-bumiputera or 'pendatang' (migrants) when we are really Malaysians.

No, it is not the same.

You cannot equate the BTN courses to your 1Malaysia slogan when these courses are divisive and racist.

You cannot call the sugar coated deals given to Naza and MRCB as privatisation when they are clearly crony deals.

You cannot call the PKFZ financial fiasco as cost overrun when it was clearly corruption.

No, they are not the same.

When your government has denied Kelantan and other states' right to share their resources with the federal government, we call it ARROGANCE, ILLEGAL & UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sarawak Cabinet Should Resign for Its Incompetence

The only word to describe the latest financial scandal in Sarawak is UNBELIEVABLE!

The Sarawak Cabinet has ordered an internal investigation into claims made by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that up to 60% of government allocations — running into billions of ringgit — meant for vital infrastructure projects between 2002 and 2008 have been misappropriated.

MACC investigations showed that only 40% of the money set aside by the Government were spent on the projects. The remaining 60% were said to have been “leaked elsewhere.”

Why unbelievable?

1) The financial scandal has taken 7 years long to catch the attention of the state government.

2) There is no check-and-balance mechanism to ensure that there is accountability and transparency in public expenditure.

Deputy Chief Minister George Chan said, lamely,"“This is government money that comes from taxpayers. If indeed funds from the Government meant for projects for the rakyat and the poor had been misappropriated, the state government wants action taken.” George and his cabinet should apologize to the people of Sarawak for their sheer incompetency.

3) It is a shame to find a large segment of Sarawakians, especially the indigenous people, are living under the established poverty line

It is shameful for the state government to order its internal audit department to investigate the misappropriations after it was tipped off by the MACC. Officers in the department should be sacked for sleeping on their job in the last 7 years.

This is a symptom of a chronic governance and a third world government.

Don't Let Democracy Kick the Bucket

AFP's Beh Lih Yi and Myself

VIP Table

A lucky draw winner

Steven's welcoming speech

Crowd at the lobby
I have two reasons to thank Malaysiakini. Firstly, it was an honour to be invited to the anniversary which was held only on every fifth year. Secondly, for staying put and keeping the flame of democracy, especially freedom of speech, alive.
The 308 political tsunami was partly made possible because Malaysiakini had empowered us by providing an online platform, a sphere not yet regulated by the government, to allow us freedom of expression.
In turn, this freedom had taught us to believe in our votes and our desire to bring a positive change to this country. Many of us would have lost a reason to continue living in this country if not for this little sprinkle of HOPE.
Last night, Steven had read his eulogies to a few friends of democracy who had left us.
Let's hope we do not have to read an eulogy to mourn the death of democracy in this country at the next Malaysiakini's anniversary dinner.
Let's hope that we will celebrate a birth of a truly multiracial thriving democracy at the next meeting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

We Need Better Ministers, Not Spin Doctors

Rais urged local public relations practitioners use blogs to compete with local bloggers who spin stories on all sorts of issues. “If others can spin, why can’t we?” he asked.

Yes, it is true that some bad ministers need more spin doctors to cover up their mess and mischief. The problem is we (Malaysians) are paying for both.

The sad part is some issues cannot be spinned regardless of how big the paychecks these spin doctors are getting.

We have helped the federal government to foot more than RM20 million for spin doctors. But there is nothing these high flier and fat paychecks spin doctors can do about the slide in the nation's economic competitiveness, corruption, education, skilled labour force and other relevant indices.

P. Gunasegaram opines: No sir, Minister. We don’t need better spin doctors.We need better information, communications, and yes, culture, too, in all the things that we do.

There is nothing these spin doctors can do to undo the PKFZ financial disaster. Can they spin off the losses and financial liability faced by the people?

There is nothing these spin doctors turned bloggers can do to demonize the 'real' bloggers if they merely asked for accountability and transparency over a number of issues e.g. VK Lingam, Teoh Beng Hock custodial death, Altantuya murder, PI Bala testimony, questionable privatisation projects, land grab scandals, Penan women rape cases, deaths in detention, the AG's report on financial misappropriations and others.

We do not need more spin doctors but ministers with better senses and intelligence. Ministers who are clean, transparent, efficient and honest do not need these spin doctors to win a few additional votes or to stay in power.

The 'real' bloggers will voluntarily promote good governance and good leaders. Why pay when you can get it for free?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's Wrong, Muhyiddin?

Muhyiddin is turning into a hatchet man for the administration?

First, he said there will be no apology for Chin Peng. The government has closed the door on former Communist Party of Malaya secretary-general Chin Peng from returning to the country, reneging on the agreement which led to the CPM laying down arms 20 years ago.

Second, he warned Tengku Razaleigh over the latter's initial acceptance to head a Pakatan sponsored oil royalty caucus.

Previously, he had defended and supported Rohaizat and Isa Samad - both tainted UMNO candidates in by-elections.

Now, he defended the controversial Biro Tata Negara (BTN) courses today as a form of nationalism in line with the 1 Malaysia concept despite growing criticisms of racism and political indoctrination.

What is wrong with you, DPM?

Old school, outdated and stubborn. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2030: We Were Warned

The signs are grim and gloomy for a country run (riot) by politicians:

The nation’s mismanagement of talent could have serious repercussions not only on its ambitions to become a high income economy on par with that of developed nations but could also lead it to fall further behind even its counterparts in the region.

Head of research at Corston-Smith Asset Management, Lim Tze Cheng, recently did a tour of South East Asian countries and came away sufficiently impressed that he feels Malaysia may soon be found lagging behind its neighbours that it was once ahead of.

He cited a recent visit to the Philippines, a current major supplier of maids, where he visited a company, International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) and he drew comparisons to local port champions Westport and Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

He said that ICTS now draws 50 per cent of its revenue from eight profitable ports outside the Philippines, and noted that no Malaysian port company can boast of similar achievements.

“I give it a 70 per cent chance that Malaysia will be exporting maids in 20 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens unless we get our act together,” he said.

Lim says that the issues plaguing Malaysia includes its “problematic” education system and distressingly low ability to retain talent.

What are the distressing trends?

1) We are hosting more than 3 million unskilled labour. Less than 40k are skilled foreign labour. Expatriates are finding it very difficult to get a working visa to work in Malaysia. Most of them were given 6 months to 1 year visas which are cumbersome. How many expatriates are still working in KL? Most of Mont Kiara high end condominiums are half empty. KL is NOT a regional city, not even close to Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok.

2) Malaysia is one of the prime targets for human trafficking. But skilled foreign spouses find it so difficult to obtain a permanent residency in Malaysia which allows them to work.

3) Malaysia's brain drain has accelerated in the last decade since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Malaysia has exported more than 1 million talents in the last decades. The emergence of dynamic regional economies such as China, Vietnam, India, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and soon Indonesia are going to attract more talents away especially in construction, telecommunications, ICT, medicine, health care, finance and accounting.

4) Other countries are busy attracting young, dynamic and skilled foreign talents but Malaysia's MM2H programme is attracting the retirees. This speaks volume of our knowledge economy direction.

5) Other non-English speaking countries are spending billions to pick up proficiency in English, our deputy minister of education finds it weird to use the language in the private sector.

6) Other countries promote efficiency, innovation and creativity, we are promoting and condoning a "I don't care" (tidak apa) attitude.

Malaysia continues to depend on oil revenue. DAP Tony Pua highlighted that crony privatisation is on the prowl again. We should be thankful to have a sharp member of parliament like him.

Yes, these people/politicians are not stupid. They should be the ones to sense a sinking ship. Just like in the 2012 movie, this government has its fingers on the pulse and almost all documents in the administration. The public do not get an access to them because of the silly and undemocratic OSA.

Maybe they think its time to rape the country's resources - for whatever that are left - and abort this sinking ship when the time comes.

Malaysians, we were warned - 2030, or maybe earlier.

The future of this country depends on the majority. Yes, the Malay Malaysians. This ship is under your stewardship. It is time to show some leadership. No point blaming the minorities. We are not a threat but are willing partners to help steer this ship away from the dangerous glacier in front of us.

For goodness sake, wake up and do something.

Oil Royalty Caucus Should Lead The Way to More Decentralisation

Pakatan Rakyat proposed the oil royalty caucus last week, following PM Najib Abdul Razak's announcement that the federal government would make 'goodwill payments' from offshore oil operations to the PAS-ruled state of Kelantan from next year.

This saw opposition from Pakatan representatives, especially those from Kelantan, who said the federal government should pay the oil royalty and not make a goodwill payment to the state.

Veteran Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has agreed to head the caucus to deliberate on the issue of petroleum and liquefied gas royalty, said Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

This is a good step forward to ensure that states enjoy a share of their resources. The monopoly of resources under the federal government is not only undemocratic but also inefficient.

State governments should be given more resources to plan and implement their own socio-economic development. As the moment, resource rich states such as Trengganu, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak have registered high poverty rates.

Central planning has resulted in uneven and unfair development between states which are closer to the federal government and enjoy a closer political relationship with the federal lawmakers than states which are more distant.

This situation has to change. Monopoly of resources under the federal government breeds corruption. This was made worse due to a lack of a check-and-balance mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability in public spending.

I hope that states will be able to get a larger share of the direct taxes too. It does not make any sense to allocate less than 5 percent of the total tax collection to a state.

I had urged several PR leaders to push for greater power sharing and decentralisation from the BN federal government.

We, the voters, will have to do the same too. States must be given a larger share of their resources. Central planning has failed to deliver a just and equitable development to all states.

I would like to commend Tengku Razaleigh for his willingness to cross the partisan line to ensure there is fairness for all Malaysians.

Monday, November 23, 2009

RM628 million for RM15 billion?

Another sugar coated deal but at whose expense?

Naza-TTDI, a unit of the diversified Naza group, will build the expo centre on a 13.1-acre site in Jalan Duta in exchange for 65 acres of state land at RM226 per square feet (psf) although the market value of the land could reach RM1.5 billion. The entire project will have a gross development value of RM15 billion, the developers said last week.

The DAP has urged the Najib administration to have an open tender for the proposed Matrade expo centre in Jalan Duta after the controversial RM628 million project was given to Naza TTDI in a building-for-land deal.

Tony Pua said the prime minister should also declassify all ministerial papers relating to the project and table it in Parliament to show necessary due diligence has been done to ensure costs and profits were not inflated if they persisted with Naza TTDI as the contractor.

He added that the government is planning on a similar privatisation project which will involve 6.5 million sq ft of land in Jalan Cochrane for an MRCB joint venture worth an estimated gross development value of RM15 billion.

Ironically, I was asked by a journalist if the Iskandar development region is facing a crisis with the current management change.

I responded that it might be a huge challenge for the project to achieve measurable success if the government does not change the way it deals with the business sector.

Direct negotiated projects which favour certain companies like the ones mentioned above do not help to enhance foreign investors confidence in Malaysia. It confirms their fear that the public procurement process is not transparent and open.

The government still favour some companies over others. I support the Dap call to have an open tender for the project. An open tender system is the best way to reverse investors' perception of the country. It helps to ensure that a project is awarded to the best contractor.

A lack of transparency does not help us to become a competitive economy.

This is the attitude we see in the government and public sector today. It is impossible that these policy makers did not see the negative consequence. It is just that THEY DO NOT CARE.

This "I don't care" attitude is going to bring all of us down. I hope Malaysians will not display the same kind of attitude by tolerating corruption, nepotism and racism in their politics.

Kudos to Tony and DAP for doing a good job. I hope the same kind of attitude can be repeated in Penang, a state government led by the party.

MCA After UMNO's Intervention = Lame

The ongoing leadership fiasco in MCA is both self-inflicted and unproductive. It is difficult to imagine how the party can walk tall after the intervention of UMNO leaders.

First, it is a political problem created by MCA leaders. The leadership had wanted to implement reform by putting the party on a higher moral ground. This did not work.

It was supposed to promote a birth of new MCA. New MCA the party is no longer since the leadership has decided to accept, reinstate and recognise a so-called 'tainted' leader.

The party leadership can no longer walk on a moral high ground. Some leaders in the party led by the embattled VP Liow Tiong Lai are accusing the leadership for being undemocratic and unprincipled.

It was indeed a high stake game for the president, Ong Tee Keat. This episode serves as a good lesson for him. Know thy self, know thy enemies. A hundred battles and a hundred victories.

How much does Ong know his strengths and weaknesses? Does he appreciate his supporters and be grateful for the support he received when he promised to walk his talk on the PKFZ scandal?

It is a promise he cannot walk away from and hope to receive the same degree of enthusiastic support in the future. I had said earlier that the scandal will either make or break him.

However, it is not clear if Ong can win the war. He may have survived some battles and may yet lose the war.

What is clear that if MCA leaders cannot resolve their own problem and require the intervention of UMNO, it will limp out of the fiasco. It will not ever walk tall amongst the Chinese community again.

As a party, it should focus much of its time and effort to reexamine the relevance of the party within the larger political milieu.

What is obvious is that Chinese Malaysians are more supportive and receptive of a non-racial political model. This is a natural reaction of any minorities in any societies.

Not wasting its time on petty and unproductive squabbles and power struggle.

With the intervention of UMNO, neither Ong-Chua nor Liow-Wee would end up as winners. Both factions are losers. Both factions will be rejected by voters.

What is the aim of capturing power and losing influence?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Put an End to Biro Tata Negara

“We were taught a song with lyrics like ‘the land that you walk upon is owned by others. Lecturers told us the Malays were forced to depend on the Chinese for support after 1998 because some Malays had betrayed their own race,” Hafidz Baharom, a freelance writer, recalled.

These courses have been running for years, and are intended to instill nationalistic values and patriotism. Conducted by the National Civics Bureau — better known as BTN (Biro Tatanegara) — the courses are for university students on public scholarships and civil servants. BTN is under the Prime Minister’s Department.

Last week, seven young Pakatan Rakyat Selangor assemblymen handed over a letter to the Selangor government, urging it to stop allowing students of state- owned universities and colleges to attend these courses.

The Selangor government, which is now controlled by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, owns three universities and colleges.

Kudos to Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi, Batu Caves assemblyman Amirudin Shari and others for standing up against decades of racist rhetoric and a programme paid by tax payers.

This is one of the many reasons why a segment of the society still think that the presence of others is the main reason for their deprivation. This is also a strong reason for to reject a race based coalition and end racism in the country.

Thanks for the gallantry!

A Last Chance to Right the Wrong - Teoh's Body Exhumed

The exhumation of Teoh Beng Hock’s body for a second autopsy, ordered by the inquest into his recent death, has been completed. The exhumation comes following the testimony of Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand that the death of the political aide was very likely a homicide.

Dr Pornthip is also on the scene to observe the exhumation process.

Also present were two other forensic experts — Dr Shahidan Md Noor, who is chief pathologist at the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and UK pathologist hired by the MACC, Dr Peter Venezis. I trust these specialists will conduct the autopsy professionally.

The second autopsy is a last chance for the country to right the wrong. Someone was wrongly detained, a standard investigative procedure was not followed and a young bright life was lost.

Malaysia will continue to remain at the bottom rung of every index available if the majority in this country continue to believe in those who had abused their power and will continue to do so by justifying race and religion.

When this country eventually collapses, it is the majority who will suffer the most.

This country can only move forward if all of us, regardless of race, creed and religion, focus on good governance, responsible leadership and real sincere partnership.


Do it NOW!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MACC Had Acted Illegally, What Now?

The high court has made an important verdict:

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) has no right to question witnesses in an investigation beyond normal office hours, namely from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Judicial Commissioner (JC) Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof stressed that the meaning of the phrase “day to day” as laid down in Section 30(3)(a) of the MACC Act – which is at the core of the dispute between Tan and the MACC – “cannot mean round the clock” investigation, which includes recording statements from the witness.

Mohamad Ariff explained that to do so would “offend the legislative purpose” and limit the fundamental liberties of a person, which are clearly laid down in the Federal Constitution, under Article 5, and which the Federal Court had recently upheld must be interpreted in the “widest sense” possible.

Asked to comment on the impact the High Court’s decision in relation to the dead political secretary, Karpal said: “In the case of Teoh Beng Hock, death was involved. The MACC has to be sued in a wider range and not limited to just the questioning.”

Yes, the MACC must be held responsible for a breach of its own investigative procedures. This ruling is not only significant for future suspects and witnesses but it is also a wake up call for other government agencies, departments and institutions which have been operating without observing proper procedures.

Just days ago, I went a department of a federal ministry to assist a client. I was shocked to find out that officers in the department do not even have a simple guideline and policy to deal with common requests and applications. The result is a lengthy wait for a simple response from the department.

I would like to advice the government to focus on real issues and weaknesses instead of wasting much of its efforts on PR spins and wasteful slogans and advertisements.

Back to the MACC, Lim Kit Siang lamented that political aide Teoh Beng Hock would still be alive if the MACC had followed the law. It is difficult to disagree with Lim.

I would like to urge MACC chief commissioner Ahmad Said Hamdan to suspend the officers involved in the Teoh's case and call an immediate internal investigation on the breach of conduct. Top officers in MACC who insisted that their officers can conduct investigation and interrogation beyond officer hours and round-the-clock should be send back for retraining or demoted.

It is time to focus on real issues, cut the crap slogans, PR spins and ceremonies. Something is not right in Malaysia.

Low Cost Advantage No More!

Can 1 Malaysia or Najib's strategists solve this problem? Leave the PR spin aside, revisit the Vision 2020 objectives and stop being in denial.

Malaysia has lost edge as a low-cost producer, says World Bank.

“The economy seems to be caught in a middle-income trap - unable to remain competitive as a high-volume, low-cost producer, yet unable to move up the value chain and achieve rapid growth by breaking into fast growing markets for knowledge and innovation-based products and services,” it said.

Too bad, this government is still keen to keep an outdated racially based socio-economic model - the NEP. This country is more interested to allow a net inflow of unskilled labour than working to lure foreign talent and skilled overseas Malaysians.

According to World Bank data, private investment in Malaysia fell to 12 per cent of gross domestic product in 2008 compared with 30 per cent prior to the Asian crisis.

Despite how spin masters intend to spin it, it is difficult to justify a net outflow of private investment on more local investors going regional. Some of the best developed economies in the region have registered a high net local investment.

It is a fact that the Malaysian economy is lackadaisical. The bureaucrats are still doing business-as-usual. All the slogans, shallow campaigns, family days and 1Malaysia programmes are not going to help enhance efficiency if the core culture of 'tidak apa' and mediocrity does not change.

According to the report, one major limitation on moving up the economic value chain is Malaysia’s education system, which churns out tens of thousands of graduates who are ill-equipped for the kind of high-value work such as biotechnology that the government has identified as growth areas.

Education in Malaysia has become mired in a deep political row as the government recently switched to Malay language instruction for math and science from English, a move critics said was designed to appease its ethnic Malay voter base.

Education is a good example how we let our politicians to continue screwing up the system and the nation.

My advice to all Malaysians, regardless of race, creed and religion, to wake up and help change this country before its too late.

Go watch the 2012 epic blockbuster if it is still not too late. There is a meaningful line in the movie, "The moment we gave up fighting, we have lost our humanity".

Are we human enough?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prosecution of Former Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri is Not a Good Sign for Islam in Malaysia

The basic question Muslims in this country will have to ask themselves is, "Who own Islam? Government, Clerics or Muslims?

Former Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said he will continue preaching and campaign to abolish the law that requires preachers to get certification from the state.

He was charged under Section 119 of the Islamic Administration of Selangor which carries a fine of up to RM3,000 and imprisonment of up to two years.

The controversial scholar was arrested by the Selangor Islamic authority (Jais) some two weeks ago while giving a private lecture at a friend’s residence in Ukay Heights.

Several Selangor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers also attempted to condemn Asri's arrest at the state legislative assembly but the Selangor executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs Hasan Ali defended the action taken by Jais.

The religious authority should engage Asri instead or prosecuting him using a flimsy reason. Islam, as a religion, has been established for hundreds of years. It is a religion which has a rich body of wisdom, lessons and knowledge.

Malaysia has prided itself as a moderate and progressive Muslim majority country and yet the authority is trying suppress any discourse and discussion about the religion.

Asri's unconventional interpretation of Islamic principles which often contradict government-endorsed doctrines may be unusual but he might not be wrong.

The prosecution of Dr Asri's Islamic views does more harm than good to Malaysia's Islamic credentials.

Similarly, Hassan Ali is doing more harm than good to the PR led government and PAS.

No Need A Spin Doctor if A Product (Governance) Is Good

Dr Koh Tsu Koon confirmed that the government had engaged Apco Worldwide, an international public affairs and media relations company, to boost its image overseas.

It is believed that the contract is worth some RM20 million but Koh, in a written reply to a question from DAP’s Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, did not divulge the exact amount.

“Apco Worldwide was tasked with promoting and improving Malaysia's image overseas,” said Koh.

He justified the appointment by asserting that a foreign firm would ensure that the country's communication practice was in line with international standards.

I have a problem with this appointment, using public money.

First, the Najib administration should not treat the international community as fools. His administration should focus on good governance, fight corruption, stop the abuse of public institutions for its own political interest, stop racist politics, repeal all draconian acts e.g. ISA, respect democratic rights of its people and promote a just and sustainable socio-economic development.

If the product (governance) is good, the administration does not excessive PR spin. News such as the PKFZ scandal, the VK Lingam-gate, the Ipoh double tracking fiasco, judicial flip-flops, custodial deaths, caning of a beer drinking model, religious intolerance, cow head stupidity and others are the ones that make Malaysia a laughing stock of the world.

Why waste the RM20 million and counting for foreign help?

Second, was Koh trying to say that we do not have any local PR experts who understand the international standards? If so, then the administration should really conduct a review of our education and skills training process.

How can we become a fully developed nation by 2020 if we cannot even produce any PR specialists who meet the international standards?

Imagine what the RM20 million can do for the smart and bright Penan students, especially those who were told they were not Bumiputera enough to enter a government sponsored matriculation college.

KPI Minister Dr Koh is just a puppet.

No One is Willing to Prosecute Lingam? Sack All Legal Officers in the AG Office to Save Tax Payers' Money

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz said that Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh can represent the Attorney-General (A-G) and prosecute controversial lawyer V.K. Lingam.

Nazri stressed that the government has no reason to defend Lingam and that veteran lawmaker can charge him.

“If Karpal is willing to represent the A-G, I will persuade the AG to engage Karpal to prosecute on the behalf of the government,” he told reporters at the parliament lobby here. “Let him charge ... the government has no reason to defend Lingam.”

Nazri should propose the government to do another thing - sack all those legal officers in the AG office if none is found capable or willing to prosecute Lingam despite the royal commission found strong evidence against him.

Nazri should help to save tax payers' money or stop monkeying around with this scandal. No wonder Malaysia is seen as more corrupt than ever.

According to the report, "Malaysia now ranks 56 out of 180 countries in the world with a corruption index score of 4.5 out of 10, with 10 being the least corrupt, said the world corruption watchdog. Last year, it placed 47 with a CPI score of 5.1."

The annual TI CPI measures how corrupt a country is in the public sector based on data sourced from 13 different polls and surveys from 10 independent institutions over a period of two years.

The government must not drag its feet on huge financial scandals such as the PKFZ, the Ipoh double tracking project, the Auditor General's report on financial abuses and others. A lack of action will render its own KPIs useless and irrelevant.

Both KPI ministers, Koh Tsu Koon and Idris Jala, must take this report seriously. It is time for the government to be held accountable for tolerating these abuses and corruption.

At Last, It's Senator Syed Husin Ali

PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali has been nominated a senator to represent Selangor.

Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim forwarded Syed Husin’s name for a vote to the State Assembly sitting on Tuesday, with 32 agreeing and three objecting.

Syed Husin had contested the Petaling Jaya Selatan seat for a few times. Unfortunately, the respected veteran politician decided not to contest in the last two general elections to allow younger candidates chance.

He could have won the seat easily. Syed Husin is still a political icon to many, a principled politician and a statesman to many of his supporters, ex-students and contemporaries.

This man deserves to be in the parliament. I am sure most of the senators will have something to benefit from his experience and knowledge.

Congratulations, Dr Syed Husin! His book, Two Faces, written after his ISA release was one of the first socio-political biographies I had read in the university.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tok Guru Nik Aziz & A Bunch of Hypocrites

Kelantan Umno Youth today urged Datuk Nik Abdul Nik Aziz Nik Mat to vacate the mentri besar post, saying that the PAS spiritual leader’s decision to cancel his plan to perform the Haj in Mecca does not prove his innocence.

Nik Aziz had admitted that he had received sponsorship amounting to RM65,000 from a businessman linked to PMBK to perform the Haj.

He also said that the sponsorship is not a bribe adding that he had received numerous offers from many people who were willing to pay for the trip.

“The Mentri Besar cannot accept any form of sponsorship from any party especially from those who have benefited from Kelantan’s natural resources, as he is the head of the state government,” said Anuar in his memorandum to the MACC.

For the past 20 years, did Tok Guru abuse any state resource to build a personal palace for himself? No, the beloved menteri besar and PAS spiritual guru did not even live in the official residence, preferring to stay in his old wooden house to be closer to the people.

In this case, the donation is for him to go to Mecca to perform the Haj, a spiritual duty of all Muslims. It is a shame for other Muslims to question the motive of this donation. It is truly a shame for a non-Muslim like me who would do the same to sponsor an elderly person to perform his religious duty if I can afford to do so.

How many UMNO leaders have abused both state and federal resources? What about those trips to Disneyland, Paris and other exotic places?

What about the generous donations given to UMNO by some very rich tycoons? If not, how is it possible for the party to amass so much assets and cash (multi billion ringgit)?

What about the PKFZ scandal and huge financial losses due to misappropriations?

Kelantan UMNO are full of hypocrites.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PM to Lure Global Talent & Malaysians Abroad

A few prime ministers before PM Najib Razak have had the same dream. Najib said the government would make Malaysia a better place to live and work in to lure back its citizens residing abroad as well as attract global talents to the country.

"We will create more opportunities, more excitement and more buzz in Malaysia to attract the Malaysian diaspora and expatriates to the country," said Najib.

More opportunities - When is the government going to announce a post-NEP economic policy, implement meritocracy, open up the public procurement process etc.?

More excitement - When is the government going to adopt a more liberal approach towards international artistes performing in Malaysia? Clarify its performance permit application process and requirements? When is the government going to stop religious extremists/snoop squads from patronizing the people?

Buzz - When can the government get over a shallow sloganeering and media spin but did very little else to improve the situation?

When can we curb corruption, enhance democracy, stop racism and religious extremism, stop abusing public institutions for its own political interest?

20 years? 30 years? After 2020? Next 6 months? Anything more than 6 months, it is not going to help turn around this country.

Friday, November 13, 2009

PI Bala: Hero Or Zero?

PI Bala was hired by political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda to keep an eye on his ex-lover Altantuya Shaaribuu, who was found murdered. No motive was ever established.

Then, Bala made two controversial statutory declarations (SD). The first implicated a few prominent people.

His first SD was announced in a press conference with opposition leaders on July 2, 2008 but a day later, he stunned the country when a different lawyer brandished a second SD that overturned the contents of the first declaration.

Balasubramaniam then went missing, according to his nephew who claims his uncle is now in an undisclosed location.

Recently, he resurfaced to make another sensational claim - he was offered RM5 million to retract his statutory declaration that linked Datuk Seri Najib Razak to murdered Mongolian model Altantuya Shaaribuu.

What spurred PI Bala to disappear and retract his first SD if it was the truth? Fear for his safety or the RM5 million promise? What made him reappear again? His guilty conscience or a broken promise?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yes, Manoharan, PR is No Different From BN

It is all about race, race and race and in this case it is about Indian, Indian and Indian.

Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson M Manoharan said the Pakatan government should have rewarded the Indians the most. His reasoning was that 'they are the ones who contributed to the coalition's huge win in the last general elections'.

He chided Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim for only having one Indian exco in the government leadership lineup.

"The government is supposed to appoint two Indian excos. Instead, they only gave one (to Dr Xavier Jayakumar)."

Can an additional exco post help to reduce the crime rate amongst Indian youth, eradicate poverty and improve per capita income of the community?

It is all about position, position and position.

Yes, Manoharan, with an assemblyman like you who only knows how to champion racial interest the PR coalition is no different from Barisan.

What about the interests of Malay and Chinese voters who voted for you?

VK Lingam Case to Be Reviewed by MACC Operations Panel

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission operations review panel (PPO) said today it will seek the Attorney-General’s permission to review the V.K. Lingam case, bowing to public pressure and unhappiness over the government’s decision that “no further action” be taken over the judicial appointments scandal.

The chairman of the panel, Dr Hadenan Abdul Jalil, who is a former Auditor-General, told a press conference today that permission was being sought on grounds of public interest.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz sparked an uproar in Parliament on Monday when he said “judiciary fixer” Lingam had been let off the hook “because he had broken no law”.

Nazri also suggested that Lingam breached no laws as he might “have just acted to fix the appointment of judges as if he was brokering the appointment of senior judges to impress people”.

A royal commission had proposed that action be taken against Lingam and several others purportedly involved in the recording including former Chief Justices Tun Eusoff Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, and tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, a close friend of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Nazri had denied Jayanthi Naidu was the witness that MACC was looking for. However, the allegations made by Jayanthi who was Lingam's private secretary are good enough to make her a main witness. The MACC should probe her allegations.

On the grounds of public interest, Nazri must offer more information on the main witness and why and how he/she had gone missing?

An Uneasy Road to Putrajaya for Pakatan

If Pakatan Rakyat leaders are already starting to count their eggs before they hatch, they might be disappointed to find a few rotten ones in the pile, which may just rupture their Putrajaya dream.

Earlier, a Pakatan MP said that his coalition just needed another 10 percent swing in votes to the coalition to give it a simple majority at the federal level. He said Pakatan must keep up its momentum in the peninsula, while making inroads in Sabah and Sarawak.

This article intends to analyse if the swing is easier said than done. Pakatan's road to Putrajaya is not expected to be easy if the coalition intends to coattail on public sentiment alone. Like all sentiments, the negative sentiment against the BN is a moving target.

The recently concluded Bagan Pinang by-election showed us that public sentiment was very difficult to predict. It proved that personality is still a main feature in our politics.

Both Indian and Chinese voters in Bagan Pinang overlooked the cow head incident in Selangor and the tragic death of Teoh Beng Hock to vote for a popular local Umno politician.

Scandals such as the VK Lingam case, the Altantuya murder, the Teoh Beng Hock custodial death, the PKFZ do have a saturation point. Those who would vote against the BN due to these scandals had done so in the 2008 General Election.

To sustain this momentum in the peninsula, Pakatan needs to register a huge number of new voters and to work on improving their worsening public perception due to several defections, internal squabbles and a perception of their inability to find a common ground for their conflicting ideologies.

The fact that the coalition needed 20 months to formalise the coalition did not help to fight the perception that their relationship is a "marriage of convenience'.

A factional dispute in PAS between a pro-unity talk with Umno and a pro-Pakatan faction had inflicted serious damage on PAS' credibility and sincerity to help usher in a new non-racial political era in Malaysia.

The extent of the damage can only be felt in the next general election especially in states such as Kedah, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Selangor. Selangor is most vulnerable of the four states under the Pakatan leadership.

The delay in formalising a coalition has wasted ample time for the three parties to collectively present a new political model to the voters nationwide. The reluctance of SAPP to join the coalition is a good enough indication of a lack of a new political model which can help to sustain Pakatan's momentum and to make inroads into Sabah and Sarawak.

Hence, Pakatan strategists should focus their time on the creation of a new political agenda which addresses several thorny issues such as the introduction of a post-NEP socio-economic blueprint, the status of Malaysia as an Islamic state, the improvement of race relations, the promise of full religious freedom, the sanctity of the secular federal constitution, the improvement of the education system, the independence of public institutions, the fight against corruption and others.

Poor selection of candidates

Moreover, Pakatan is not completely faultless in the scandalous power grab in Perak. They should be reminded that it was made possible only when three of its elected assemblymen and top state leaders defected to the other side.

Pakatan leaders should be held partly responsible for their poor selection of candidates. This weakness was recently exposed and repeated in Kedah, Penang and Selangor.

The fracas in the Perak state assembly should not continue until the next general election.

Pakatan had sent a clear protest message to the electorates about the illegal power grab. The voters had responded positively to the protest by giving a strong mandate to PAS' Nizar at the Bukit Gantang by-election.

In politics, the court of public perception is more important than the legal court.

Perak Pakatan may have lost several lawsuits against the BN but the losses did not translate into a loss of popularity. However, the continuation of disruption in the state assembly may eventually put off the voters who wanted to take the matter to the ballot boxes.

It is a challenge for Perak Pakatan to prove to their voters that it has a strategy to address this issue wisely, taking into consideration the well-being of all Perakians. Another serious problem which may curtail the influence of Pakatan is a lack of new talents.

Before the 2008 general election, their top leaders had the luxury of time to move around the country to headhunt good talents and to organise their grassroots support. Today, most of them are burdened with state and parliamentary duties.

The second line leaders are not yet ready to do the job to strengthen their respective party nationally. Apart from a few former BN leaders, arguably past their prime, who had joined the coalition there are not many new credible new faces.

Pakatan's networking and relationship with the non-governmental organisations and socio-political activists are waning. The number of joint Pakatan and NGO activities has dropped drastically.

The fact is the strength of these NGOs is also on the decline since a number of their top leaders had contested and won in the 2008 general election. These NGOs did not have enough time to groom and identify new leaders to take over from them.

The saving grace for Pakatan

It is difficult to tell if a mammoth demonstration such as the Bersih and Hindraf protests can be repeated in the future. It is difficult for Hindraf to rediscover its pre-March 2008 influence and ability to mobilise a large crowd.

The Kampung Buah Pala incident was a prime example. In fact, several of Hindraf's top leaders who were successfully elected in the 2008 general election are now associated more with their political parties than the movement.

Zaid Ibrahim had rightly pointed out that Sabah and Sarawak are crucial to the Pakatan's aim to capture federal power. The ability of Pakatan to build new alliances in Sabah and Sarawak will alter the uneasy power relationship between the peninsula based federal government and the states.

However, there is no indication yet that the Pakatan political culture is anything different from the BN's. Can Pakatan respect Sabah and Sarawak special rights as enshrined in the federal constitution and allow these states more autonomy in handling state matters?

Another indication that the swing of 10 percent votes to Pakatan requires hard labour is a more solid Najib administration compared Abdullah's. A number of Pakatan leaders including DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had conceded that Najib is perceived to be more efficient than Abdullah.

The only saving grace for Pakatan which enables them to buy more time to work on their internal issues is a severe leadership crisis faced by component parties in the BN. This is going to be a headache for Najib (left) as he tries to patch up the cracks in his coalition.

Despite his effort to promote 1Malaysia as a new tagline for BN to restore its non-Malay support base, the coalition's inability to transform itself to convince Malaysians that it can lead fairly and justly amidst several issues e.g. the NEP and Malay supremacy, acute corruption, abuse of state power and manipulation of public institutions to protect its political interest and crush its opponents is evident, and a major put-off for voters who are increasingly facing a lack of a real alternative.

Although the general election is not expected until at least 2011, both coalitions are not expected to create any surprises.

The worse thing for Pakatan is that it had hit a performance high during the 2008 general election and anything less than that is seen as a regression or a step backward, while any minor step forward for the BN is seen as a positive improvement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Now We Know Why PKR Did Not Take Any Disciplinary Action Against Zulkifli Nordin

Seven PKR MPs came to the defence of fellow MP Zulkifli Noordin after party vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah implied that a warning for members to toe the line was aimed at Zulkifli.

The “Group of 7” MPs defended Zulkifli, saying that the remark by party adviser and Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was only a general statement which was not targeted at any specific individual.

Zahrain Mohd Hashim (Bayan Baru), Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju), Datuk Kamarul Bahrin Abbas (Teluk Kemang), Abdullah Sani Abd Hamid (Kuala Langat), Mohd Yusmadi Yusof (Balik Pulau), Azan Ismail (Indera Mahkota) and Adb Aziz Abd Kadir (Ketereh) gathered at the Parliament lobby yesterday where they challenged Sivarasa.

Did the seven challenge Zulkifli when he distrupted the BAR council forum, gave extreme statements on race and religion etc? Zulkifli had attempted to table several Private Member’s Bills, which were apparently not in line with party policies, and had not consulted the party leadership. One of the bills wanted an amendment to the constitution to strengthen Malaysia's Islamic status.

No, because Wee said Zulkifli had the right “to speak and say what he wants”. Just what he did when he went to the police on the Selangor exco alleged link with the underworld but DID NOT file a police report. Wee, why?

Zulkifli represents PKR and his party is part of PR. What he says has an implication to the coalition.

If Zulkifli can say whatever he wants, PR politicians should not make a fuss about what UMNO leaders say in the future.

How many of the seven should be allowed to keep their seats in the next general election?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

VK Lingam Scandal & a Big Cover Up?

Leo, Jayanthi and Sivarasa

Jayanthi LG Naidu, who is said to be the 'key witness' sought by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the VK Lingam case,claimed that she has been available to assist MACC in their investigations at all times.

She made this claim despite the MACC statement claiming that they could not get a key witness to testify.

"After the announcement (written reply) by Nazri on Oct 23 (that no action would be taken), I called and asked the MACC who the key witness was that they were looking for. "They were unable to answer me," she told reporters at Parliament.

She has made several serious allegations which merit a review or a reopen of the VK Lingam's case. MACC and the government risk tarnishing their image if no probe is taken against these allegations.

Jayanthi's allegations:

1) Lingam and Chin's family holiday trip to New Zealand in 1994 was planned and paid for by Lingam

2) She described how the judgment delivered by Mokhtar Sidin in the Vincent Tan vs MGG Pillai 's libel case was written in the office of Lingam.

3) She claimed that several incidents in Lingam's office where Lingam and other lawyers have also written or assisted in the writing of draft judgments.

4) She had withdrawn large sums of cash between RM100,000 and RM300,000 under Lingam's instructions to be given as 'gifts' to several judges.

Now, who is lying? The MACC, Nazri or Jayanthi?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia Forum in Penang

Haris called up to ask for my assistance to help promote this forum cum workshop.

So please attend or sign up if you have the time or can make an effort to attend. I spoke at the first Bangsa Malaysia forum in Penang. It was a good effort.

Check out the SABM forum here.

Socio-Political Bloggers, Are You Liars?

Broadcasting director-general Ibrahim Yahya, himself a blogger, said bloggers should act as middlemen when presenting issues to society.

Bloggers have been urged to stop spreading lies in their writings, particularly on social and political issues, as they can create controversy and damage the reputation of the government.
Meanwhile, blogger Syed Imran Alsagoff who goes by the moniker "Kuda Ranggi" said like print and electronic media journalists, bloggers should also be exposed to journalism ethics and laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

"Bloggers who do not have deep understanding of the provisions of the acts and journalism ethics may resort to writing lies," he said.

Syed Imran, a former editor of Bernama said often, blogs on political issues were inclined to lying, incite and degrade the dignity of others.

According to the two bloggers those bloggers who are critical of the government are all liars. This includes Dr Mahathir too - who was critical of the Abdullah administration?

If the government has been found to have manipulated public institutions to protect and promote their political interests e.g. the use police to keep PR policy makers out of the Perak state assembly or the MACC to harass opposition politicians, its actions cannot be condemned for fear of being labelled as liars?

Who is lying about the abrupt and inconclusive closure of the VK Lingam case?

Who is lying about the Penan women rape report?

Who is lying about the letters of guarantee in the PKFZ fiasco?

Who is lying about Teoh Beng Hock's custodial death?

Who is lying about 'yong tofu' being Malay's favourite staple? (1Malaysia advertisement)

Who is lying - Syed Imran or socio-political bloggers - about those blogs on political issues that were inclined to lying, incite and degrade the dignity of others?

According to Syed Imran, those who do not support the draconian ISA and OSA are also liars. This makes me a LIAR too BUT A PROUD ONE.

I thought only UMNO politicians are good at degrading the integrity of others e.g. Ong Tee Keat and Koh Tsu Koon and inciting racial hatred amongst Malaysians.

Thanks to Nazri For Showing Us How a Morally Deficit Government Can Be Legal

Nazri Aziz said that Lingam's alleged brokering of judges may be morally wrong, but there are no specific laws against it.

"His actions can undermine and erode the integrity of the judiciary, but things must be viewed from a legal perspective...moral and legal must be separated".

Nazri's twisted logic is worrying. If Lingam's action can undermine the integrity of the judiciary, there should be enough legal ground to deal with his alleged misbehaviour.

At present, the perception of the judiciary is already teetering on the brink of collapse. Flip flops and inconsistencies in judgements are pointing to possibilities of poor judicial appointment and selection process or outside interference.

Lingam's action had eroded public's confidence in our judicial independence. Something has to be done to address the erosion of confidence. Lingam must be investigated and those who were allegedly involved in the controversy must be scrutinized too.

Is Nazri finally agreeing with the rest of Malaysians that the power grab in Perak is immoral but not illegal?

If moral and legal are totally separated, we might as well take compassion, principles, good values and integrity out of human beings. Is our politics amoral too?

This is not the kind of politics we want.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Pertinent Question: Is the Opposition Wasting a Historic Opportunity?

Tunku Abdul Aziz: "The electorate owes PR nothing. The truth is that Pakatan Rakyat owes its supporters everything."

This is a timely reminder from a reluctant politician and a fine gentleman. PR must start to live up to the people's expectations or perish in the next general election. Like a few other concerned and credible Malaysians, Tunku Aziz had decided to join the DAP and was immediately made its Vice-President because he had wanted to strengthen the multiracial image of the Chinese based opposition party.

Similarly, other politicians such as Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Tan Kee Kwong, Lee Kah Choon, Zaid Ibrahim and Chua Jui Ming had thrown their weight behind this newly minted coalition because they too wanted the two-party system to succeed.

A number of us, political analysts and observers, had at times overstepped our neutrality and urged our readers to support candidates from the coalition because we wanted it to become a viable alternative to the problem riddled, racist, corrupted and lacklustre Barisan Nasional/UMNO.

DAP, PKR and PAS did not win many state and parliamentary seats in the last general election on the popularity and credibility of their parties and leaders alone. Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang and Wan Azizah had shown their vulnerability in elections.

PR was a by-product of the 308 general election. On its own, the three parties had failed to sustain their cooperation. Many of us still remembered the disastrous 1999 general election for several top leaders in DAP. Both Kit Siang and Karpal Singh were defeated by lesser known opponents.

Kit Siang, who has reminded the coalition of the risk of becoming a 'one-term wonder', had pulled out his party from the 1999 alliance and contested independently in 2004. As a result, the opposition cohesiveness and its electoral pact was not fully achieved.

Both Kit Siang and Karpal were returned to the parliament after being left out for a term. Since then, both of them were convinced that working with PAS is detrimental to the DAP. Kit Siang had refused to support a PAS assemblyman as a new Perak menteri besar until the DAP Perak acted autonomously to endorse PAS Nizar.

It was not easy for Kit to have a change of heart. He must have seen something a number of his colleagues did not.

Today, the 3 parties are sharing power in 3 state governments and have just ironed out some details to make this coalition official. This outcome, which would not have been possible since the 1999 GE, should be celebrated as a first step towards the creation of a sustainable alternative coalition to check on the excesses and misdeeds of BN.

The post-2008 PR was created by the people especially those who were fed-up with the arrogance, power abuse, corruption and mediocrity in BN. The voters willingness to accept all three - PAS, DAP and PKR - had given both PAS and DAP the courage to collaborate and formalize their political partnership.

It was not achieved through the diplomatic efforts of Kit Siang or Hadi Awang. It was mind blowing that the latter was so keen to engage UMNO in a Malay-Muslim unity talk when there was no treat to the Malay-Muslim community.

A pertinent question to ask the PR leaders is how much progress has this coalition made in the last 20 months? Has an official power sharing structure being formulated to ease their cooperation in the PR governed states?

Has the coalition informed or explained to their supporters how they intend to govern this country differently from BN?

Is PR truly a Malaysian Malaysia coalition or is it also being bogged down by the same race and religious issues faced by the BN?

Over the last couple of months, I am sad to inform them that we have witnessed the same race and religious sentiments being played out in the coalition. From the banning of an open beer sales in convenient stores, protests against several concerts to some totally senseless and irrational statements and petty quarrels, the coalition has began to court attacks from BN supporters and leaders that this is a marriage of convenience and a weak and shallow partnership.

The fact that factions in both PAS and PKR which are so willing to cooperate and engage UMNO in a unity talk has chipped off our confidence in the coalition. Has PR moved beyond the race-based model or is it still housing and sheltering many closet race and religious extremists/nationalists? Is PR being trapped in the same ethno-religious hour glass that it was trying to break?

I was asked by a top national leader of a PR component party why I did not praise his effort to appoint an Indian Malaysian to a top post in his administration. A praise should not come from the fact that the person was from a minority race but it should come from his performance and capability. I am prepared to lavish my praises on him but can the leader provide me with the details of his adviser's achievement apart from his racial identity?

I have also encountered a change of behaviour of some PR leaders who cannot take the limelight of top positions and their newly acquired political influence and remain humble and engaging. Some have turned arrogant, inaccessible and irresponsible. Badrul of Port Klang, Zulkifli Nordin, the Perak 'kataks' and a few more had given the coalition a bad name.

An opposition MP had claimed that I had blackmailed a state government but had refused to show proof or retract his statement and offer an apology when it was clear that he had made a mistake. I was not to be his only victim. He had done a similar thing to other individuals and organisations.

A lack of discipline, clear direction, leadership vision and an effective and efficient team is hampering some of PR controlled state governments.

Some of the newly elected representatives are still hoping for a lack of choice or the non-Malays anger and dissatisfaction of UMNO to keep their seats and support in the next general election.

The unpredictability of Indian voters should serve as an early warning to these dreamers. They should depend on their own ability to lead, govern and serve to retain their seats instead of the weaknesses of their opponents.

There is a thing that our policy makers should learn and learn fast - don't just do something, do it really really well. The same malaise and mediocrity are still seen in all PR led states.

PR leaders and members should take note of the alarm bell sounded by Tunku Abdul Aziz before it is too late. The goodwill is fast depleting. I had warned them as early as the mid-2009.

An elected position can be taken back by the people easily, by a stroke of pen, when the time is ripe.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Budget 2010: Fairer Deal Needed for States

I had made numerous calls for further decentralisation of socio-economic planning and development between the federal and state governments. At present, the federal government determines fully how the development budget is going to be allocated for states.

Since the early days of privatisation, the Economic Planning Unit was swamped with too many planning, implementation and coordination tasks which had resulted in poorly managed privatisation projects. As a result, a number of these companies and businessmen linked to the government had to be bailed out using public fund. In our present memory, the PKFZ is a prime example.

Today, I would like to support the call of another Member of Parliament, Tony Pua, who has urged the federal government to respect and acknowledge the development needs of the states. It is evident that some resource rich states such as Sabah, Sarawak, Pahang and Kedah are facing serious poverty issue and lack of development.

Tony suggested the adoption of a fixed tax revenue sharing system between the federal and state governments. He suggested a 80:20 sharing model. There are several pluses to this model.

First, it will be able to address the real development needs of a state. The socio-economic development needs of a state differs from one to another. It is impossible for the central planners to be to understand everything.

For example, there is obviously a need for more industrial supporting infrastructure in Sabah to promote more industrial activities in the state. This will help the state to create more jobs beyond the tourism industry.

Penang needs to enhance its tourism infrastructure, tackle serious flood problem and to conserve and protect its World Heritage buildings and facade. It needs better telecommunication and Internet broadband infrastructure to promote its knowledge and services sectors.

Unfortunately, these states do not even have enough to run their administration effectively. State allocation is barely enough to upkeep its state administration.

Hence, it is a shame that despite chalking up a huge external debt and receiving so much oil money from Petronas there are still major development gaps and issues between Klang Valley and other cities.

The overly centralised system also breeds corruption in the federal government. The annual AG's report is a testimony of abuses and wastage of public money by some of federal linked agencies and officials.

The reason of a centralised system is obvious and it is politically motivated. The BN government has just approved a 'wang ehsan' (compassionate payment) to Kelantan for 'sucking' the state's oil reserve is a blatant display of arrogance. This federal government should be reminded that it must act fairly and it does not own all resources in the country.

Hence, it is important for us to realize that this federal government's practice has resulted in an uneven and unjust regional development between states. It has also amplified a serious corruption practice in the federal administration.

This practice must change or the other option is to change the federal government.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Single Stream School System & Malaysian Hypocrisy

Dr Mahathir is not wrong to suggest that a single stream school system can help to promote unity and racial integration.

He said that Malaysia is unique because it had multiple school streams but other countries had only one.

The ex-premier should be reminded too that Malaysia is also unique because it had so many race based political parties but other countries such as US, Canada and Australia would not even tolerate race identification and discrimination.

Dr Mahathir should blame his own policy and his party for discriminating and amplifying racism in the country.

The outcome: Two bright students Daniel Ibau and Marina Undau were denied places in the matriculation programme just because they were not Bumiputera enough. Many more had suffered the same fate.

Dr M should not just preach but he should walk his talk by telling his party leadership to turn multiracial because it will be good for unity and racial integration too.

Otherwise, it is better for him to realise that we are growing really tired of his hypocrisy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Backdoor Deputy President Liow Tiong Lai?

Gloomy faces
Politics can be a funny business. Liow has urged embattled MCA President Ong Tee Keat to accept the verdict of the EGM and to resign as promised.

However, it appears that the once ally of the president is now eager to hold on to the deputy president position although he was only probably elected by a handful of CC members.

If Liow has any backbone, he should practice what he has preached to Ong and not accept the appointment. Going forward is going to erode his personal credibility.

The same goes to the four appointed CC members who were sacked by Ong earlier today. They should accept the reality in politics - they should always support the person who appointed them to their respective position. This is real politik.

Going into the CC meeting, Ong has to ensure that he has a mathematical advantage in case a vote is being called to allow fresh elections in the party. Ong has learned a valuable lesson from his dispute with Chua.

A leader has to know when to conserve his energy and consolidate his position before going for a kill. His inability to kill off Chua had created an opportunity for his closest ally to nearly finish him off.

There are a few lessons for Liow too. He should not be too eager to fill the gap too soon. Ong would have supported Liow's leadership of MCA if the latter did not betray him. Internal sources related how Ong was adamant to quit until it became clear to him that Liow was slowly building up pressure for him to retreat.

The biggest loser in the whole dilemma is Liow. Not the Chinese community. Whatever the outcome of the party leadership tussle, the leadership still has an enormous task trying to convince the community to support them.

What we have witnessed in MCA is real politik at work.

Budget 2010 : Financial Position

There is little to indicate in the PM's Budget 2010 speech on how the government intends to finance the RM50 billion deficit. Until and unless this government comes to its senses, the country's financial position is going to be worsening.

Malaysia is set to register a straight 12 years of budget deficit and a record external debt of RM450 billion or more. This is a staggering figure. Over the last 6 years, the national petroleum company, Petronas, has contributed more than RM260 billion to the government's coffer.

The amount does not commensurate with the level of development enjoyed by this country. I had written about a lack of urban renewal projects, public transport system enhancement, new public amenities and others.

The Prime Minister has outlined the creation of a knowledge economy and a high income workforce by 2020. This objective cannot be achieved if there is not accountability and a proper ROI for the funds used.

There are several major obstacles for the government:

1) There is a lack of a proper mechanism to evaluate public spending in the country. For example, the 2010 Budget has an allocation of RM22 million for a study on the implementation of a nationwide GST. It has received a protest from opposition MPs in the parliament. The amount is absurd. Being a consultant with some of the top consulting firms in the country, I find this sum difficult to digest. Similarly, more than RM200 million was billed by the consultants of PKFZ. When the government starts to be more accountable?

2) Despite mounting criticisms and abuses reported in the Auditor's General Report, the government has yet to budge on the implementation of a full open tender system. States such as Penang has shown that an open tender system can help the government to save a lot of money. It makes the private sector more competition and helps to weed out corruption in the public procurement process.

3) The government revenue streams have not grown very much since the last decade. The private sector is not doing that well. Individuals who are paying taxes have not grown beyond the 11% of total workforce. In a developed country, more than 60% of workforce pay an income tax. A low level of those eligible to pay tax does not help the government to fully adopt the GST. It means that the lower income group will be worse hit if a full GST is implemented. Without its implementation, the World Bank has warned Malaysia of a worsening government's revenue. Its dependency on oil revenue is not very positive either.

4) Malaysia has yet to realize its investments in various mega projects. Despite the claim by Mahathir that mega projects are good for the economy. It appears that a non-productive infrastructure development or a new industrial park gives only a short term stimulus to the economy. The budget continues to neglect other important industries such as manufacturing, innovative and creative services, tourism and hospitality services and others. Malaysia spends without a good ROI. The PKFZ is a prime example. Next the Cyberjaya and soon the Nusajaya and other regional corridors.

5) The government is facing its own political and policy bottlenecks. The race-based coalition cannot move beyond its race affirmative policies. Hence, it does not have a post-NEP policy or is reluctant to introduce any policy which can help to promote meritocracy which is sorely needed by the country.

Hence, I agree with a few observers that the 1Malaysia slogan is just but another empty slogan. Very little has changed since the leadership transition from Abdullah Badawi to Najib Razak. Complacency, racial politics, corruption and abuse of power by certain public institutions are still rampant.

We deserve better than this.

Monday, November 02, 2009

This is Why Gerakan Has Lost Its Touch

Gerakan economic bureau head Wan Sun Keong alleged that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had turned down a USD3bil (RM10.2bil) investment because he could not "could not commit 1,000 engineers" to the company.

Gerakan state chairman Teng Hock Nan has been accusing the state government for manufacturing lies and half-truths on the Kampung Buah Pala issue. Yet, his party and his economic bureau head are committing the same crime.

Gerakan is now talking about rejuvenation and reform. The first thing they should do is to get a better qualified economic bureau head who does not even understand simply economics.

First, this is not the first instance in Penang where high tech companies had decided against investing in Penang due to skilled labour shortage. During Koh Tsu Koon's tenure, he had lamented that a software development company had shifted their investment to Singapore despite a higher labour cost due to the same reason - inability to hire enough software engineers.

Lim had merely complained that the state needs a better training facility if it wants to stay attractive to high tech investment.

Second, there is no way Lim could guarantee 1,000 E&E engineers to any company. The availability of skilled labour is determined by pure demand and supply. Our lower salary scale is not helping us to attract the best brains. Many of them would rather offer their service to companies overseas.

Third, it is time for both the Penang government and Gerakan to realize that we cannot get good people by paying peanuts. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys to work for you. Lim cannot continue to run his government like a socialist one. He needs to put the money where the mouth is in order to create new jobs and industries.

Neither should Gerakan blame Lim for something which is obviously not his fault. What did Gerakan do to address the situation when Koh was aware of Penang's inability to attract skilled workers?