Sunday, February 28, 2010

Malay Consultative Council a New Dilemma for Najib

Najib's 1Malaysia vision is facing yet another serious threat. 80 Malay groups came together to form the Malay Consultative Council (MPM) to push the government to maintain affirmative action for the country’s dominant race.

A Malay leader revealed that the MPM wants the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government to maintain a “guided” New Economic Policy (NEP) that protects the Malays and Bumiputras, saying the community was worried about moves to abolish subsidies and other forms of aid.

The fact is the federal government cannot afford to hand out subsidies and aids forever. Malaysia's oil reserve is depleting. Our over dependence on oil revenue is slowing stalling our ability to fund socio-economic development programmes.

Najib has identified the need to build a high growth economy through innovation and creativity. The question is how is he going to convince these Malay NGOs that what they are doing (blind protection of Malay rights) is going to generate more pain than gain for the community.

As a small economy with limited resources, we should have focused on growing the economic pie and not fighting over crumbs. The newly established MCC should prove that it is not all talk but no walk.

What can the MCC do to help in capacity building of the Malays? Malay may be the dominant race in Malaysia but it is just a minority race globally. The community must work harder and acquire as much knowledge and skills as possible to compete with the world's best. Education and knowledge acquisition is the only option for survival. Not racial chest beating or making unreasonable demands.

If MCC is only interested in making demands on Malay rights and blame the non-Malay but keeping quiet on their Malay leadership own mismanagement and all other ills which have much larger implication on the Malay community, it risks being treated as a shallow organisation and a group of racial opportunists.

MCC or Perkasa may not be Ibrahim Ali's best bet to retain his MP seat. He should not be given another opportunity.

Najib should state his stand on the MCC and Perkasa if he truly believes in his own 1Malaysia. We are awaiting to be reassured.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review GST Decision

The federal government should review its decision to implement GST by mid-2011. The opposition parties and several BN politicians e.g. Khir Toyo have urged the federal government to review its decision to implement the GST.

GST is a useful stream of revenue for the government if it is implemented at the right moment. At present, the government should focus on enhancing the per capita income of the people instead of introducing a consumption tax which may suppress domestic demand.

Malaysia's GDP average per capita is slightly above USD7,400 (RM25,000) which is still below RM36,000, the base limit for taxable income. It means that more than 85% of all workers are not taxable.

Khir and others are right to point out that GST implementation will cause price increases between 15 to 25 percent.

High prices will hamper purchasing power if average salary remains stagnant. The government has promised to look into efforts to double our income by 2015. This should the primary focus on the government instead of implementing GST too early.

Job creation is also on the low. There is hardly any stimulating news on the economic sector. Without a real focus on the economy, it is going to be difficult to jump start the economy and Malaysia will remain an economic laggard post-2012 when all other regional economies are growing and expanding.

In the midst of an economic crisis, it is sad to note that some segment of politicians, NGOs and communal zealots are more interested to drum up communal and religious tension and pressure instead of focusing on unity.

"By union the smallest states thrive. By discord the greatest are destroyed. ~ Sallust"

P.Gunasegaram & 2 Al-Islam Journalists: Who's More Dangerous?

Compared to P.Gunasegaram's article on the caning of three Muslim women who committed illicit sex, the action by two Al-Islam journalists was far worse and a real insult to a religion.

The journalists who had pretended to be Christians and took part in a Catholic Mass to probe allegations that Muslims were being converted.

In their article, the two admitted to receiving Holy Communion — which is in the form of bread which Catholics believe changes to the body of Jesus Christ through the rite. They said they subsequently spat it out in what Catholics consider an act of desecration.

P.Gunasegaram was merely speaking the obvious. He stated that women are exempted from caning under the civil law and Islamic law must comply with the exemption. The punishment meted does give a perception that Islam practiced in Malaysia is medieval and punitive. Unfortunately, this is not the real face of Islam.

Unsurprising, several Muslim organisations e.g. Mais, National Indigenous Organisation (Perkasa), Perkasa Selangor, Malaysian Islamic Consumer Association (PPIM) and Malaysian Muslim People's Coalition (IRIMM).

Meanwhile, senior Home Ministry official Abdul Razak Abdul Latif as saying that the ministry had found the article published in The Star may threaten "public order".

According to Abdul Razak, the newspaper has been given 14 days to offer an apology and explanation before the ministry decides whether it will take any action.

He added that the printed apology, which was published by The Star the day after the article appeared, was not enough to settle the matter.

These Muslim NGOs and Abdul Razak should try to answer a simple question; which is more supreme, the syariah law or the civil law? If the answer is the former, then these organisations and Abdul Razak may have committed a contempt against the federal constitution. This will put a serious doubt over their loyalty and to the secular federal constitution and democracy in Malaysia.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the Attorney General’s decision to let two Al-Islam magazine journalists off the hook for allegedly desecrating Catholic Communion hosts should not matter so long as the magazine has “learned its lesson from this episode.”

Similarly, The Star has published an apology over the article. If action is still taken against P.Gunasegaram or the paper, we want to know why an action is not taken against the two journalists who had committed a more serious offence.

In a democratic country, P.Gunasegaram had merely state his view and he did so without harming anyone. Many of us held the same view on this matter.

UMNO is not the law. UMNO politicians have been interpreting what the law can or cannot do at their own whims and fancies. This is the main threat to Najib's 1Malaysia.

The most important tenet of 1Malaysia is the rule of law.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is the Federal Government Acting Like a 'Godfather'?

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah says the federal government is behaving like a “Godfather” in refusing to pay oil royalties to Kelantan.

It is odd for the federal government to take up advertisements in newspapers to justify its compassionate payments to the state. Tengku is right to point out that the federal government receives its power from the 13 states. Without a federation of 13 states, there is no federal government.

Tengku Razaleigh said the Federation of Malaya Agreement was signed in 1948 while Malaysia was formed in 1963, and a review was overdue.

“The Federal Government is behaving like a Godfather even though their power comes from the 13 states,” he said in likening Putrajaya’s heavy-handedness to that of the head of a criminal organization.

Tengku Razaleigh said he was moving to establish a bi-partisan Federation Caucus in Parliament to examine ‘unhappy’ federal-state relations, including the dispute over oil royalties.

Tengku's effort should be supported by all parties who want to see a better and more equitable and just governance in this country. It is time for a review of unfair and imbalance state-federal relations. There is a need of decentralisation of power from the federal government to the state governments. Each state should be given more power and jurisdiction to plan for its own socio-economic development unlike now.

It is obvious that Kelantan and previously Trengganu were treated like beggars. Such treatment is totally against the spirit of federalism.

Muhyiddin Yassin has questioned Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s loyalty to Umno and accused the Kelantan prince of trying to confuse the public over the oil royalty dispute.

Sadly, Muhyiddin is the one who needs a lesson on loyalty. Tengku is patriotic and not blindly loyal to a political power which abuses the federal constitution and the spirit of federalism.

It is time for the government to walk its talk on "1Malaysia: People's first, Performance now" pledge.

Muhyiddin's statement appears to put political loyalty above people.

The federal government should focus on facilitating state governments to develop and to grow their economy. Not trying to frustrate them by putting the regime political interest above the people.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Federal Arrogance

Kelantan Umno chief Mustapa Mohamed last night insisted the state is only entitled to compassionate payments rather than oil royalty demanded by its PAS government for energy extracted miles off its coast.

This statement coming from one of the more moderate voices in UMNO reflects the arrogance of federal government. This is another example of encroaching and overarching federal power over states. The answer is more decentralisation from the central government.

Interestingly, Mustapa's statement contains two major socio-political and moral flaws. First, almost all tax revenues go directly to the federal coffer. It is almost impossible for the states to initiate their own development programmes. Development projects are mostly led and sponsored by the federal government.

Second, there is no federal government without a collection of states agreeing to form a federation. Hence, it is morally and politically wrong to term the oil royalty payment to Kelantan as a compassionate payment. It is morally demeaning that residents of Kelantan need to be treated this way by the federal government.

Mustapa argues that the 2005 oil discovery falls beyond the 3 nautical miles stipulated in the 1974 Petroleum Act and agreement between the state government and Petronas. Hence, the state is not qualified to ask for any royalty. This is a warp logic which depends on a legal interpretation of the contract. Legally, I do not know if Mustapa is right. But it is wrong in the spirit of the federation and national building.

This points to the next question; what has the federal government done to the oil revenue if it does not intend to share it with the states?

If Kelantan's compassionate payments are not related to the oil royalty, why other states especially the poorer ones e.g. Kedah, Perlis, Pahang and others are not entitled to the same payments?

Mustapa is trying to imply that only BN ruled states deserved to be treated with dignity. Others are subjected to the compassion of the federal government.

It is silly and wasteful for the federal government to take up full-page advertisements in Malay newspapers to explain the oil royalty issue. If this is not political arrogance and a lack of sincerity, what else? The money should have been used to help out poor folks in Kelantan.

Similarly, the federal government should also cut its useless PR spending if it intends to allow its supporters and machinery run wild to tarnish its image internationally.

Ironically, this regime is also trying to lecture others about separation of power. It has been defending and helping institutions of other branches of power e.g. judiciary, police, armed forces, MACC, syariah courts etc. to justify and to cover up their weaknesses and mistakes.

If there is a real separation of power and if BN understands what it means, can't these institutions stand up for themselves?

Sensing a permanent lost of appeal of non-Malay BN component parties, the coalition is now trying to lure individuals, organisations and NGOs into the family.

BN should try to become a friend, a fan and a supporter of real democracy. It will find a lot of like minded friends on the same platform.

This government should really pause to think of the outcomes of its dangerous politicking and political games. Can the Malay Muslims be really proud of this Malay supremacy and overzealous Islamic government?

Decades of race affirmative action favouring the Malay-Bumiputera did not help to alleviate the social status and capacity of the community. Moreover, overzealous actions to protect and defend 'Allah' or God makes us wonder who is the real God if even God needs protection from these people. Are they giving Islam a good name?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sodomy II & Misplaced Priority

If there is a word to describe the current political scenario, it should be 'chronic'. It is habitual and dangerous. We thought politicians from both divide would help to push through some positive reforms by practising responsible politics.

It looks like a replay of old dirty politics again. Malaysia's negative international image is self inflicted. The fact that Anwar's sodomy trial gets higher priority over more pressing cases such as PKFZ financial scandal, the two stolen jet engines, scores of corruption cases, serious economic bottlenecks, rising crime and others suggested that this country odd choice.

Even Zulkifli Noordin's spat with his party received better coverage (front page headlines) compared to any of the issues mentioned above. Misplaced priority is eroding the role of media as a society's watchdog.

Remarkably issue such as the canning of 3 women under the anachronistic Islamic law for committing illicit sex was reported only after the sentence was meted out. We must address this serious deviation of judicial practice in this country.

Malaysia's image as a moderate and modern Muslim majority democracy is seriously being undermined by these cases including the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims, arson attacks on places of worship, worsening racial and religious understanding and others.

While we are busy squabbling over politics, religion and race status, there are more important undercurrents which are threatening to sweep everything away;

1) Malaysia's industrial development structure may have collapsed. The lost of skilled workers and best brains (more than 15%) may have a huge impact on industrialisation in Malaysia. Skilled labour is needed to push the economy towards a higher value chain and to innovate. Only an advanced economy can help to raise the nation's income per capita. What is our hope to industrialise and innovate if we are short of brains and skills? What has been done?

2) Economic stagnation means decline if countries in the region continue to improve. Malaysia has not found a new economic strategy to move the economy ahead. Najib's New Economy Model is expected to receive lukewarm support from his own party. Right winged groups such as Perkasa have warned against the restructuring of Malay affirmative action or NEP. Without seriously promoting innovation and meritocracy Malaysia does not have the necessary inertia to push itself ahead of the pack in the region. Feet dragging from the current regime means there will not be any serious policy reform in the next few years.

3) Singapore's new resorts will pose a threat to Malaysia's service industry. The new resorts and other supporting industries are expected to create more than 50,000 jobs. Malaysia's best in the industry will be tempted to capitalize on these opportunities. This will result in more brain drain from the country. Malaysia's service and hospitality industry will have to depend more on unskilled foreign labour which may lower service quality.

4) A lack of industrial development means the economy remains narrow based. Not enough jobs are created to keep our best people in the country. Highly skilled people may not be able to find the right job to stay put. Hence, it is a chicken and egg situation. Without enough opportunities and new industries created, it is difficult to keep skilled people in the country.

5) Malaysia is still practicing nepotism and unhealthy racial policy. Growing conservatism is a push off to most investors. Even local investors are deserting the country and investing elsewhere.

6) Najib's 1Malaysia policy should really look at ways and possibilities to work with the other coalition. It should not be just a mere slogan to attract votes. Without a real unity and focus on the real socio-economic issues, the decline may reach a stage where is it might be irreversible.

Some have asked about Malaysia's prospects. I am tempted to tell them that change may be beyond our lifetime if the current situation persists. My advice would have been "run if you still can".

But we must not give up on this country. Bad politics is the culprit. The majority community must see beyond the superficial to know that the current practice is hurting them more than helping.

Does the Judiciary Need UMNO Youth to Defend Its Credibility?

More than 50 Australian MPs last week lodged a formal protest over the trial of the former deputy premier which began earlier this month, urging Malaysia to drop the case and saying it would hurt the country's image.

A few more countries have spoken up against an alleged political trial against the top opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim. The latest to have spoken up is John Kerry, a senior US senator.

These statements were made amidst a growing criticism of a lack of transparency and fairness in the trial. A few injustices should be noted e.g. the moving of Anwar's trial from a lower court to high court, refusal of prosecution team to share list of witnesses and crucial information with the defence team and unfair media coverage on the opposition leader.

Earlier, the court of appeal has ruled against Anwar to dispose the charge claiming that two medical reports found no conclusive evidence of penetration on the complainant.

The fact that Anwar is an important political figure in the country, the judiciary needs to be even more vigilant in dispensing justice and to ensure that he gets a fair trial. Given that a number of us already have a problem with the application of law in this case, any attempt to deny Anwar an access to useful and crucial information to defend himself is tantamount to a political conspiracy against him.

This is something leaders such as Khairy Jamaluddin have to accept and learn. If the judiciary is credible and independent, it does not need the UMNO Youth or Perkasa to defend its image. The application of law and process of dispensing justice will help to redeem the judiciary and help to quash any ill intended criticism.

It does not need Khairy or some 300 demonstrators, led by the influential youth wing of the ruling party Umno, yelled slogans and carried banners calling on Australia to 'Mind your own business' during the peaceful rally which lasted less than an hour.

"If you want to ask for a fair trial, OK, but if you're asking us to drop our charges and insinuate conspiracy, then this is something that we have to address," said Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

The point is who will the international community listen to; Khairy & UMNO Youth or John Kerry and the 50 MPs from Australia?

Khairy's action in leading the demonstration strengthens the case of a political trial. Worse, it shows that Khairy has wasted his ivy league education for not being able to respond intelligently and civilly to the memorandum.

Will the real judicial spokesman speak out?

Friday, February 12, 2010

PERC 1 - Muhyiddin 0

Muhyiddin has asked us to ignore the PERC report, calling it a nonsence. Interestingly the government has to shoulder a burden of proof that we are not falling into instability or fast becoming a butt of joke.

Why?

1) We bought buses are not road worthy. The operator of RapidKL spent RM93 million to buy over 1,294 used buses from two bus companies in 2003, only to have most of them consigned to the scrap heap two years later. Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd bought the buses from DRB-Hicom and Park May Bhd in 2003 but 1,139 of the buses were deemed unfit for operations and were de-commissioned in November 2005. No wonder the hype about improving public transport in Klang Valley.

2) We bought fighter jets which had killed more pilots on training than on combat missions.

3) We established public institutions which cannot understand the concept of separation of power and public integrity.

4) We bought naval ships which will never be allowed to sail.

5) Now, we bought a submarine which cannot dive. Malaysia’s first submarine, a European-made Scorpene delivered last September, has developed problems that make it unfit for diving, Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today. The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman sailed into a grand reception last year as the first of two commissioned from French contractor DCNS and Spain’s Navantia for a total of 3.4 billion ringgit.

Muhyiddin needs a lesson on Malaysia. Care to help educating him on our failings?

PERC & Muhyiddin: A Pot Calling a Kettle Black

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has dismissed a report by Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), which claims that Malaysia is veering to­­wards instability, as “nonsensical.”

Muhyiddin said the report ap­­peared to be part of a hidden agenda to destabilise the country.

“It has obvious ulterior motives and we do not need comments from those who know nothing about the country. They must be talking through their nose.

Muhyiddin's immediate response to the PERC's report is equally nonsensical. It appears that Muhyiddin know less about Malaysians than the PERC's consultants. What is so elusive about Malaysia?

The government that Muhyiddin represents should respond more intelligently by correcting details and allegations in the report. There is no ulterior motive. Malaysia is not even a regional powerhouse which is worth undermining unlike China, Japan or India.

However, the PERC report will be used by investors as a guide to prioritise their investment. Muhyiddin's wild criticism of PERC will not undermine its credibility but his less than intelligent respond, bordering name calling, will hurt Malaysia's reputation as an emerging knowledge economy.

“The fact is that Malaysians are happy and are not facing any major disaster and there is no racial trouble or war among us,” Muhyiddin told a press conference.

The report did not claim that there is an ethnic war in Malaysia. The fact is an armed ethnic conflict is not a probable reality. Reasons: the armed forces are dominated mostly by a single ethnic, Malaysians who are frustrated with growing racism are leaving instead of fighting and ethnic threats are only coming from a small group of elite minorities.

How is Muhyiddin so sure that Malaysians are happy especially with a mediocre economy which does not create enough opportunities, growing inflation, deteriorating public institutions and separation of power and a country continue to bleed talents and investment?

PERC's report claimed that a group of elite minorities were dominating the national agenda to the extent that it was hurting Malaysia’s attractiveness to investors. Is this statement not accurate? Perkasa and a handful of other racial and religious NGOs are dictating social development in the country. Unfortunately, these organisations know more about threats than dialogue.

Among the developments that caught its attention were the theft of military jet engines; the detention of terror suspects from a num­ber of African and Middle East countries fol­­­lowing warnings that Islamic militants were planning at­­tacks on foreigners at resorts in Sa­­bah; renewed ethnic and religious violence that included arson at some churches and desecration of mosques; and controversy over the integrity of key institutions like the judicial system.

The government should respond by taking a firmer action on political corruption e.g. PKFZ and the AG's report, worsening inter-ethnic relations, religious spats and others. It should send a thank you card to PERC for being a sounding board to Malaysia's growing pains.

We should we listen to? Muhyiddin or PERC?

Happy Chinese New Year


I would like to wish all friends and readers a Happy Chinese New Year. We must start the new year with more courage to change the things that should be changed.

Since 1997, Malaysia has never fully recovered economically. Scarce national resources are being squandered and wasted through corruption and irresponsible governance. People are getting less hopeful by the day.

Malaysians, including readers of this blog, have been calling for a change but we are merely doing so from the sidelines. It is time we participate more meaningfully in the change process.

The first step is to register as a voter. Next, speak up on poor governance and irresponsible politicking. Finally, say no to racism and religious extremism.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Perak Trial: BN Won Legally But Lost Morally


It was not an unexpected verdict. The Federal Court today agreed with the Court of Appeal and ruled that Barisan Nasional's Zambry Abd Kadir is the lawful Mentri Besar of Perak.

The five-man panel of judges comprised Court of Appeal president Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, Chief Judge of Malaya Arifin Zakaria and Justices Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yusoff, and Abdul Hamid Embong.

The judgement was read out in court by Arifin Zakaria. “There is no requirement in the State Constitution which requires a vote of no confidence to be taken in the State Assembly. In the present case, there is no doubt that Zambry has the support of 31 of the 59 members of the state assembly.”

I have a problem reading the summary judgement from a layman perspective. Logic should prevail when there is no requirement in the State Constitution which requires a vote of no confidence to be taken in the state assembly. Democratically, an elected menteri besar should face the assembly vote if he no longer enjoys the confidence of the house.

The role of the judiciary is to help fill in the gap in the state constitution with a process which is consistent with the spirit of democracy.

If the State Constitution is silence on the issue of removal, it does not automatically empower the Sultan to act on his personal capacity to decide who should be the legitimate menteri besar. What is the mechanism available to ensure that the Sultan does not err in his decision?

It is dangerous to go back to this road, letting the monarch to decide who should be the head of government, without potentially causing an irreparable destruction to Malaysia's democratic credentials.

Democracy is justice delivered and not denied. The whole episode of party hopping and the decision to sack a democratically elected government by appointing a new government supported by three controversial assemblymen is a mockery of people's mandate. This is the real problem, not who ends up governing Perak.

In the power grab, the Najib administration has proven to be quite impatient. Sadly, policy makers should strive to strengthen the democratic process and not destroy it. Eventually, it may proven to be a short lived victory for Barisan and Najib.

The crucial point now is not about supporting the Pakatan coalition, which should shoulder some responsibility for the indiscipline of their elected representatives, but to restore the State Constitution and the democratic process to its original spirit. Men and women are created equal. Democracy reflects this equality by giving a vote to everyone regardless of wealth or personal status.

By rejecting this government, Perakians will send a clear message to the politicians, ruling regime, judges and royalty that the only viable option for this country is democracy and not feudalism or absolute monarchy.

Barisan may have won this round but will their victory be celebrated by the international community and reward the country with new investment?

Tengku Razaleigh is right to point out that Malaysia is removing itself from any positive reform. We may have gone a few steps backward. Malaysians must decide their future and they should do that with whatever democratic avenues left - elections.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Constitutional Dilemma in Perak: Death of Democracy

Tomorrow is the day for Perak because the federal court will decide whether to reinstate Nizar or to reaffirm Zambry's administration. Law lecturer Abdul Aziz Bari is right to point out that legal consideration is not longer important in this case.

The damage has been done to the soft fabric of Malaysian democracy. In this country, anything is possible. Unpredictability of the courts is slowly becoming a norm rather than an exception.

I was asked by reporters what will happen to Perak after the federal court decision tomorrow. It is not so important which coalition is going to end up ruling the state. The most important question is the direction this country is taking or the judiciary is taking us.

If the court rules that the constitutional monarch is legally empowered to hire and fire a chief minister, it will throw the whole parliamentary democracy process upside down. Malaysia will take a few steps backward. Under a parliamentary democracy, a state leader can only be removed through a vote of no-confidence in a state assembly.

Clearly to its advantage, UMNO is surprisingly campaigning for the revival of monarchy in the country by attacking Pakatan leaders as traitors to the rulers or 'derhaka'. It was UMNO which clipped the wings of the monarchy by striking out their immunity.

Tomorrow we will find out if there is a return of more influential monarchy which may play an active role as a king maker in the Malaysian politics.

The second dilemma is who is going to defend the sanctity of the constitution if judges are allowed to interpret the constitution not according to their spirit? Tomorrow's judgement may also continue to jeopardize the separation of power.

The political arrogance displayed by some politicians by ignoring the democratic wishes of the people is most disturbing. Through this illegal power grab, the Barisan Nasional cannot claim to do it for the people. It did it to satisfy its own appetite for power. It comes at a huge cost - the destruction of Malaysian democracy.

Pakatan was no better too for flirting with the same idea. Luckily, its 916 mind game which harboured a hope to capture federal power through the same method - party hopping - did not materialize. If it did, we may have seen the last of Pakatan too.

Malaysia may be blessed with virtually no deadly natural disaster but our politicians have proven to be the most dangerous destructive forces. Sadly, we have chosen to leave politics to these lesser men and women.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Malaysia's Funniest: Suhakam's Landlord Refused to Switch On Aircond

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) was today forced to adjourn its public inquiry into the detention of five lawyers last year because its landlord refused to switch on the air-conditioning system.

Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who chaired the inquiry, said: “We were forced to adjourn early today, because Tradewind, the owner of the Menara Tun Razak building, became unreasonable, in spite of our offer to pay for all costs involved in the air-conditioning of the building at the hearing during the weekend.

What is wrong with Malaysia today? We have created all the wrong news. Are Malaysians really that arrogant, unreasonable and uncivilised? How many more Nasir Safars or Tradewinds are out there?

Tradewind should be cited for contempt against democracy. The company should have supported the work of Suhakam and not acted in such an irresponsible and arrogant manner.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Malaysia in Crisis: Allah Controversy, Nasir & Sodomy

Over the last few months,the PR company advising the federal government must be working overtime trying to repair the damage done to its client.

From the cow head incident, Allah controversy, arson attacks on places of worship, racist statements made by several individuals and extreme right race based organisations to the Anwar sodomy trial, there are too many negative news about Malaysia.

It appears that PM Najib's grand vision, 1Malaysia, has failed even before it takes off. A few days ago, his aide had uttered some racist statements in a 1Malaysia forum causing widespread criticism for his insensitive and arrogance. However, political arrogance and disrespect for citizen rights is a common feature in local politics.

Nasir Safar has garnered support from the usual suspects e.g. Ibrahim Ali, the president of Perkasa, a Malay supremacy pressure group. This group has successful roped in supporters from the high places including royalty and the ex-premier Dr Mahathir. Mahathir claims that Perkasa growing popularity is largely due to UMNO's inability to defend the Malay supremacy.

It would be interesting to put this hypothesis to test by bringing back Dr Mahathir to helm UMNO and make Ibrahim Ali his deputy.

I was asked if these incidents and controversies are signs of Malaysia's growing Islamisation. Hardly, but a sign of extreme right race proponents fear of losing mass support from the majority community.

Growing Maturity

The failure of arson attacks on places of worship to incite communal clashes is a sign of growing maturity and calmness in the society. Better information sharing through the internet, mobile devices and the role of online activism was able to send the right messages out to the public. Extremist groups can no longer manipulate false information and use hostile tactics to create communal tensions.

However, the role of internet also means that statements such as Chinese women would come to Malaysia to become prostitutes or Indians come here to beg will travel fast to the public forums in these countries. The outcome will be devastating to the Malaysian tourism industry and international image.

Judicial Image

It is sad to note that the Anwar sodomy trial is dominating the front page coverage in almost all mainstream newspapers. The trend will continue until the end of his trial. On the other hand, the trial for those who were implicated in the biggest financial scandal in the country, the PKFZ, has not even started. High profile personalities who were supposed to be hauled up to face the trial have not been caught.

Anwar's sodomy trial is going to be a PR disaster for the country. It exposes the biggest hypocrisy in the country. It appears to put sodomy as a much bigger offence than corruption or murder. Ironically, the Malaysian judiciary faces the biggest test in the 21st century and the process of the trial will indicate to us if there is any hope of a true reform can work to regain public confidence on our justice system.

A less than fair coverage on Anwar's sodomy trial may erode completely the credibility of all mainstream editors in the country and may mark the downturn of some media companies. Most of these companies are already facing shrinking advertisement revenue due to readers shunning their publications.

There is still hope for these media companies to reform and play a responsible role in the society. They should focus their reporting on important issues such as corruption, poor governance, education reform, economic revival and others. Not just Pakatan bashing or Barisan apple polishing. Media companies should stay above politics. Sadly, this is not something achievable in Malaysia. Not in the next two decades.

Our Role

The impact of negative perception towards Malaysia overseas is going to hurt FDI inflow into the country. Local investment is also footloose. The net outflow of investment is going to hurt our industrial development and employment sector. Growing unemployment amongst undergraduates is going to be more serious in the next few years.

The fact that the government is introducing a weird two-tier pricing model for retail petrol sale is a sign of poor fiscal condition. Public debt is growing to more than RM500 billion by 2011. The implementation of GST to diversify the government revenue stream is facing a strong opposition. Barely 2 million taxpayers are paying for the country's development expenditure. Unpredictable oil price is causing a major dilemma for the government to plan its budget.

We must play our role as the watchdogs of political parties and politicians. We must not let ourselves be blinded by political parties and politicians using race supremacy to mask their own incapability and selfish desires.

We must learn to work together to protect our nation from the ravages of unscrupulous politicians.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nasir Safar is a Symptom of Ugly Racial Politics

PM Najib Razak’s special officer Nasir Safar will tender his resignation after allegedly saying “Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies” at a 1 Malaysia seminar in Malacca.

It is not difficult to understand why those who attended the forum were disgusted by Nasir's allegations. His allegations are not only racist but gender insensitive. No wonder Malaysia has failed to attract more Indian and Chinese tourists to Malaysia due to such prejudices.

Granted some international tourists were caught for being involved in illegal and illicit activities in Malaysia but it is not right to put race labels on these offenders. They came from many nationalities and not only Indian and Chinese.

Sources said Nasir also remarked that "Indians in Malaysia have crossed the line. They force the government for 12 subjects in SPM. Don't force the government. We can anytime revoke the citizenship of the Indians in Malaysia."

The senior aide also allegedly said "Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies", touching off the furore and leading to the walkout.

The question is why are we not surprised by Nasir's allegations. Nasir is a symptom of ugly racial politics. My blog has seen some very similar racial views and these type of views were not tolerated.

Nasir, a special officer to the PM, is not just a common person but a person who holds a high position in the PM office. He stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the top policy makers in this country. Hence, we should be alarmed by his allegations and racially malicious statement.

Nasir has denied he ever made these allegations. It is either Nasir is speaking another lingo or those who heard his speech were mischievous enough to victimize him.

Who should we trust?

The only thing we can be sure is to SAY NO TO RACISM!

UMNO Finding a Scapegoat on Oil Royalty Issue

Tengku Razaleigh should be applauded commended for urging the federal government to obey and respect the oil royalty payment to Kelantan and other states in Malaysia.

According to the 1974 agreement, the federal government has to pay 5% of total oil revenue recovered within a state borders. Ku Li claimed that the state deserves the oil royalty and not a compassionate fund.

UMNO Kelantan and several party leaders have called for the party to initiate disciplinary action against the veteran politician.

Kelantan Umno Youth has urged the party's Supreme Council to seek explanation from Tengku Razaleigh's over his stand on the oil royalty issue. Its secretary Bazlan Baharuddin said Tengku Razaleigh should be called up by the Supreme Council to explain why he felt that Kelantan deserved the oil royalty.

Gua Musang Wanita Umno division chief Wan Hazani Mohd Nor said the movement was disappointed with Tengku Razaleigh's stand as it would further aggravate the situation.

"Ironically, his (Tengku Razaleigh) stand was different when he was Petronas chairman."

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's political fate will be determined by the party's management committee meeting tomorrow.

Sadly, the party has picked on the wrong target again. Ku Li is merely a messenger and a witness to the oil royalty agreement because the bill was drafted during his time as the chairman of Petronas.

The reluctance of the federal government to honour its contractual agreement with the oil producing states has created a credibility crisis for the ruling regime.

Ku Li's effort to highlight the right to oil royalty payment is key to our overall efforts to push for more decentralisation from the federal government.

Any disciplinary action taken against the veteran UMNO politician will send a wrong signal to the international community on the federal government's rogue attitude towards its legal obligations.