Friday, March 30, 2012

Why did Lim Guan Eng Allow Dijaya Corporation Berhad End Up with 55% Ownership of Tropicana Ivory Sdn Bhd Which Controls the Penang World City?

Vincent Tan & Danny Tan

In my last blog post, I did highlight a surprise in the Bayan Mutiara deal: the ownership structure of the SPV which is controlling the development of Penang World City.

I said: 

Finally, it is odd to note that Ivory, the successful bidder, is now left being a minority shareholder in TISB. TISB is a joint-venture company in which Dijaya Corporation Bhd holds a 55% stake, while Ivory Properties Group Bhd the remaining 45%. In the agreement with Dijaya Corporation Bhd, Ivory is the turnkey builder for PWC and will thus be entitled to 48% of the project’s gross revenue with the amount due to the company estimated at RM5billion. 

The deal is getting more complicated by the day. From a successful bid and a 70% stake in the joint venture, Ivory is now a minority shareholder of a SPV and a turn key contractor for a backdoor controlling shareholder of PWC which will be built on Bayan Mutiara prime land. Did the state government see this coming or it is a willing player all along?

What is Dijaya Corporation BerhadThe core business of Dijaya Corporation is property development. Over the last 10 years, the company’s assets have tripled from MYR500 million to over MYR1.5 billion, with a sales of over MYR500 million in year 2010.  Some of the projects under the company's belt are the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, Tropicana Indah Resort Homes, Tropicana City, Tropicana Sungai Long, Tropicana Bayou, Tropicana Sungai Buloh (TSB) Commercial Centre, Casa Kiara I & II, Casa Suites, Fortune Park, Arena Mentari, W Hotel & Condominiums, Aston Villa, 10 Island Resort and Tropicana Danga Bay. 

More interestingly, Dijaya is controlled by a popular local tycoon Danny Tan Chee Sing. His profile which can be found on Dijaya's website reads:
"Tan Sri Dato’ Tan Chee Sing, a Malaysian aged 56, was appointed to the Board on 5 July 1995. He is currently the Group Chief Executive Officer of Dijaya. He is a businessman and entrepreneur having a wide spectrum of businesses with extensive experience in property development, resort management, restaurants, leisure and entertainment operations through his investments in public and private limited corporations. 
Tan Sri Dato’ Tan is also the Executive Vice-Chairman of TT Resources Bhd, Chief Executive Officer of Tropicana Golf & Country Resort Berhad, Deputy Chairman of Berjaya Assets Berhad, and a Director of Berjaya Capital Berhad, Bukit Kiara Resort Berhad, KDE Recreation Berhad, Tioman Island Resort Berhad and Berjaya Golf Resort Berhad. He is also the Chairman of Sports Toto Malaysia Sdn Bhd and a Director of U Mobile Sdn Bhd, a 3G mobile service provider." 
I am sure some of the companies which are linked to Danny sound familiar to many e.g. Berjaya Assets Berhad, Berjaya Gold Resort Berhad, Sports Toto Malaysia Sdn Bhd and U Mobile Sdn Bhd. These are the companies controlled by his controversial tycoon brother Vincent Tan Chee Yioun. Both siblings are closely connected and their strong bond can be seen from their intertwined interest in companies held by them. 

Vincent Tan was a close crony of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is arguably the most controversial ex-premier of the country since he took harsh decisions to invoke ISA detention on various opposition top leaders including Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Karpal Singh, and many more. His sacking and persecution of Anwar Ibrahim in the infamous Sodomy I during the 1997 financial crisis fallout catapulted this notoriety to the climax. Vincent had benefited from Mahathir's largess such as the Sports Toto, Indah Water, a license to operate sports betting through Ascot Sports but permission was later revoked after an uproar by opposition, lawn bowling and indoor netball stadium project, KL Monorail project and the list goes on. 

Vincent Tan is no stranger to controversy. I am sure many of you could name some of the alleged controversies which were associated or linked to the famous local tycoon whom Mahathir had named as one of a few billionaires created by his regime. Vincent was alleged to have been involved in the Lingamgate, another infamous lawyer who had tried to fix the appointment of top judges in the country. The case had forced the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry but no one was ever charged or implicated after the outcome of the commission investigation. 

Vincent was also allegedly linked to the defection of Dap lawmaker and deputy speaker, Hee Yit Foong, which had resulted in the demise of a 9-month old Pakatan government in Perak. 

Vincent had an eye on Penang Hill which he had wanted to convert into a casino. This controversial project did not take off but did contribute partially to the end of the late Dr Lim Chong Eu's political career and rein in Penang. 

I am just curious how did Dijaya Corporation Berhad ended up being the controlling/largest shareholder of TISB which controls the development of Penang World City.

CM Lim Guan Eng owes his party and coalition members and leaders an explanation on why this was allowed to happen. Why was Ivory allowed to flip 55% of the land ownership to Dijaya less than 3 months after winning the bid? 

I am very disappointed that the state government, via its tender committee, only look at the tender price to select a winning bid. Bidders should have been asked to submit their master plan for the area and consideration should only be done based on their track record. Ivory's biggest commercial project, the Penang Times Square, had to be resuscitated immediately after it was completed due to poor planning and management. Today, the project is showing only moderate sign of success. 

The most burning question is did Lim Guan Eng expect and allow the Tan brothers (Danny & Vincent) to gain backdoor control of the PWC?

Read this article: Tan brothers look to 'conquer' Penang

Yes, conquer they did and this time Dap is at the losing end again. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yes, Penang Needs an Effective Opposition But Is Gerakan Willing To Become a Third Force?

Yes, Penang needs an effective and constructive opposition just like the Parliament and other state assemblies for effective check-and-balance purposes. No, the present group of Umno assemblymen do not provide us with a reliable and effective opposition.

Why? They are either too Malay centric or ill equipped/lack of knowledge to debate in the house. Moreover, sending thugs and hooligans to disrupt assemblies is not something which are going to help them win over the middle ground. Umno leaders were not ready to become opposition members in 2008, they were ready to form a government with Gerakan, MCA and MIC.

I can understand people's frustration with pushy and abrasive Umno leaders in a Gerakan-led state government since 1990. We do not even have to repeat the nickname ex-CM Tsu Koon was given.

My friend, the present CM, is not going to be happy with me for endorsing and calling for an effective and constructive opposition in the Penang state assembly. Do not misunderstood me, Guan Eng is a good and passionate leader. One has to be passionate enough to make a comeback after serving an 18-month jail sentence for speaking up against a child sexual abuse case.

I guess Guan Eng would have to accept me the way I am. I would like to be a friend who would let him know when he strays and support him when he is wrongly persecuted or criticized. A quick check on my blog history would reveal on many occasions I had stood up for him.

Undoubtedly, there is a need of an effective and constructive opposition to ensure government of the day stays alert and focuses on its role in serving the people.

Too strong a government may get carried away with many executive decisions including some which may eventually bring more harm than good to the people.

I still hope that Guan Eng would put up his executive decision to build 4 mega infrastructure projects including an underwater tunnel linking Bagan Ajam to Gurney Drive for public consultation and referendum. I hope he does not take the standing support he got for the underwater tunnel at the Dap fund raising dinner as a final indication of support from the people.

There are two reasons for him to consider; first, the construction cost of the four highways (suggested as RM8 billion) is too exorbitant for the state to shoulder. The state government has indicated that it is going to fund the projects through land swap. There is no indication which part of state owned land banks would be swapped for the deals.

Has the state government study the impact of these projects on the environment, its effectiveness to address intracity congestion, rising property prices if more lands are going to fall in the hands of private developers and other social impact.

Second, should the state government spend so much resources to focus on the mobility of those with private vehicles instead of looking at ways to provide state-run public bus system? Guan Eng said public transport is not under his jurisdiction and he cannot do anything until he wins the federal government.

My question is what the federal government can do to his government for providing a service to hundreds of thousands who cannot afford to own a car? Let them come after you and we will defend your decision with our votes and support!

Tourism in the state would have to be supported by a good public transport system. Building more highways is not consistent with the "Greener Penang" project which is essentially hoping to take more private vehicles off the road. I supported his "no car" day around the Beach Street area. So, can we hope for some consistency here?

Any transport planner worth his/her salt should be able to tell us that building more highways is not a permanent solution to solving traffic congestion and bottleneck. We need someone to debate and engage the state government on this plan.

I have demonstrated the need of a reliable, effective and constructive opposition because who in the state government is going to listen to ordinary people like us? It is a fact that a politician only listens and rebuts another politician.

I believe an effective opposition is going to bring out the best in Guan Eng. We have yet to see the best in him. A strong, authoritative and charismatic leader like him needs good a debate and discourse to bring out the best in him. Wholesale accolades, praises and support is going to make him complacent and unwilling to listen to alternative views. So, if you love Guan Eng, let him know when he is wrong. If he is not listening, shout!

However, I don't think Gerakan's Wong Mun Hoe and his colleagues plead with the people to give Gerakan candidates a chance to become an effective opposition voice is not going to move any sympathy. He is right to note that the people are still angry with Umno/Barisan.

Hence, if he is serious about being an effective opposition voice in the state assembly he should be willing to distance his party from the destructive Umno. However, Umno is still influential among the Malay voters in Penang.

Gerakan candidates must be willing to form a Third Force in Penang. Wong and his colleagues must provide constructive and effective opposition voice to the people to help check-and balance the government. At the moment, it does not help if Gerakan is seen as being subservient to Umno.

Many of us do not care much if Umno's representation in the state assembly is much eroded. Yes, vote some of them out if you can. But we want an effective and constructive opposition to help ensure that the state government stands on its toes at all times.

Do Wong and any of his colleagues dare to take the challenge?

Hasan Ali, Johor Education Department & Johor Mufti Department are Threats to Religious Harmony

Hasan Ali is an epitome of an ambitious and desperate politician who would not mind manufacturing lies and deceits in order to stay in power. Much like others before him, Zulkifli Nordin and Ibrahim Ali, Hasan has been  threatening to release a video to prove Christian proselytisation of Muslims. 

Again, he said he would release excerpts of the video featuring an apostate Muslim couple, now returned to Islam, who he said would reveal details of methods employed by Christians to foment apostasy among Muslims.

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing urged Hasan Ali to opt for "full rather than striptease disclosure". 

"For a man of his academic rigour, I'm surprised that he thinks piecemeal disclosure is sufficient," he argued.

"He has not only to show the entire video but also produce the couple for questioning by a full court press before others can be convinced of the authenticity of his claims of devious means employed by Christians to proselytise Muslims," elaborated the bishop.

Hasan's action is fishy and suspicious. It smells of a grand design to use the issue of proselytisation and apostasy as means to an end to benefit his or his sponsors' political aim. 

In almost a concerted move, the Johor Education Department and Johor Mufti Department are jointly organizing a forum called "Strengthening the Faith, the dangers of Liberalism and Pluralism and the Threat of Christianity towards Muslims. What is the role of teachers?" which requires the attendance of at least two religious teachers from 55 national schools across Johor.

It is clearly a provocation and an attempt to spread distrust towards Christians in Malaysia. Is this a state sponsored programme with the intention to incite hatred and bad faith between Muslims and Christians?

It is timely for the Umno led government to come clean on their intention. This forum is another egg on the face scenario for the 1Malaysia government. If this is the sole decision of little Napoleans, the Ministry of Education should immediately put a stop to such intimidation and distortion. 

If this is a state sponsored event which aims to consolidate Malay Muslim voters under the Umno umbrella, then it is time for the Malay community to wake up and recognize who are the biggest threat to this plural and diverse society and nation.

It is a crime not to celebrate our pluralism and diversity and calling it a threat instead. 

We should reject such attempts and cheap stunts. It is sad what political parties are willing to commit for the own political gains.

Is this still the Malaysia we know and grew up in?

Note: Thanks to all readers, Straight Talk has surpassed 650,000 page views and 1400 blog posts.

Penang World City: Dap's Policy Relapse Risks Cancelling Out All Its Good Will

Dap-led Penang state government risks cancelling out all its goodwill with the current Bayan Mutiara land deal. The state government has been giving out several social grants ranging from RM100 for those who are above 60-year old to RM1000 for those who are facing bereavement in their family. However, such tokenism will not help to alleviate escalating property prices and cost of living on the Penang island. 

Dap has made several key policy decisions which do not appear to include the socio-economic considerations of lower middle income group in Penang. One of its most controversial decisions is the sale of Bayan Mutiara land to a private developer for the development of a mega project, Penang World City (PWC).

In my article which was published in The Star, "Poser over Bayan Mutiara deal", I had highlighted several concerns over the sale:
  • Most private property projects on the island are focused primarily on premium and luxury property which have driven up prices beyond the reach of most Penangites. There is worry that the sale of the state-owned Bayan Mutiara land to a private developer may end up in a similar fate.
  • What was the rationale to allow a five-year payment period to the purchaser? It gives an impression that the purchaser may not have secured financing for the purchase.
  • Did the transacted price factor in any interest charges or projected land price appreciation over the next five years?
  • Is there any restriction or precondition between the state government and the purchaser to discourage any sub-sales? If the purchaser were to divide and resell some parcels of the land to other developers at a higher premium, it may further drive up property prices on the island. If such sales were allowed, is the state government entitled to a share of the higher premium?
  • Bayan Mutiara is no longer about selling above the current market value but the use of scarce prime land on the island for the purpose of socio-economic transformation. Ownership of prime land is very crucial for the state government to drive the state's economy.
  • We do not want a repeat of high premium-reclaimed lands being sold to private developers who in turn inflate property prices in Penang and raked in billions in profit at the expense of the people.
It is most unfortunate that some of my concerns have turned out to be true. I have send out messages to a few Dap leaders including CM Lim Guan Eng but received a standard reply from the latter that the state government had to sell the Bayan Mutiara land to fund the low cost housing scheme in Batu Kawan. If it is about funds, the state government could have set up joint ventures with private developers to jointly develop the area which could have easily help the state government to raise more than RM1.07 billion from the deal. Oddly, the state government does not appear desperate to fund the low cost housing by offering a generous payment period of 5-year to Ivory for the land purchase.

Tropicana Ivory Sdn Bhd's (TISB) announcement in The Star has confirmed some of my worse fear and created a few more questions over the project and the state government's decision to sell the last remaining piece of prime land to a private developer.

I am not sure if Dap-led state government is taking an easy way out by 'outsourcing' the drafting of Penang World City (PWC) master plan to a private developer or it is facing a relapse in policy making. I was told that the project will be strictly monitored by the local authority to ensure that it does not marginalize Penangites. However, the recent announcement by TISB does not appear to me that the state government is fully in control. 

First, the state government is not only selling the 41 ha prime land to Ivory but appears to be 'financing' the development of PWC too through the generous 5-year payment period for the purchase. To date, about RM22mil or 2% had been paid as earnest deposit for the land. The remaining down payment of RM80mil will have to be paid on or before April 10. The state government has not made public any schedule of payment by Ivory

Moreover, Ivory's Group chairman Low Eng Hock announced the first phase, to be located on a 10-acre site and scheduled for launch in the third quarter of 2012, will have a gross development value (GDV) of around RM600mil to RM700mil. Revenue collected from the first phase would have allowed Ivory and its partner, Dijaya Corporation, to make subsequent payments. More phases are expected to be launched between 2012 and 2013. Hence, there is little need for Ivory to seek for outside funding to help the purchase. The biggest financier appears to be the state government and the people of Penang. TISB initial capital outlaw is a mere RM102 million for a land worth RM1.07 billion. 

If the state government is a willing financier, it should have made this point clear to us, the stakeholders, at the beginning instead of keeping mum on the rationale to provide such generous payment period to Ivory. The question is, would TISB be willing to offer a similar 5-year payment period to all Penangites who buy properties at PWC? Will the state government be willing to give similar payment term to other land transactions in Penang?

Second, where's the provision of affordable housing within PWC? According to TISB, about 15% of the properties for the 800 to 1,000 high-rise units for the first phase will be priced between RM300,000 and RM500,000, depending on the built-up area which ranged between 600 sq ft and 800 sq ft. Subsequent phases for PWC will also see 15% of the properties priced in the affordable range of between RM300,000 and RM500,000. 

Under the revised guidelines of 2010, developers have to allocate 5% of the total units in a development scheme to be priced at RM200,000 (which was not included by TISB for the first phase), Low said the group might consider using the plot ratio guidelines introduced in 2010 for the island to build medium-priced properties. Hence, who is really calling the shot on compliance, the developer or the state government?

Is this definition of 'affordable' also shared by the state government which has promised to monitor the development of PWC to ensure it is a balanced and inclusive project for the people of Penang?

The state government should take the matter of providing affordable housing at key economic hubs/districts seriously.If PWC is going to become the next key economic hub, does the state government expect local workers to travel all the way from Batu Kawan to work here since the state government has claimed that the provision of public transport system is something beyond its purview and jurisdiction? Sadly, the state government's solution for congestion and public mobility focuses only on those who own private vehicles. 

Third, the initial revelation of the PWC master plan appears to be less than appealing or beneficial for Penang's socio-economic transformation. TISB's contradiction is clear when it says it wants huge number of Penangites to live in PWC but at the same time it is pricing properties in PWC way beyond the means of average Penangites. Moreover, it wants to create Chinese, Korean, Middle Eastern and European villages or residential enclaves in PWC, so that the properties can be marketed and sold en-bloc in that particular country through an appointed real estate agent.

It will attract tourism, according to TISB. We should thank the developer and the state government for bringing China, Korea, Middle East (hopefully not Afghanistan but Doha or Dubai) and Europe to Penang. Penangites should contribute to the largest number of tourists visiting PWC. It helps to reduce outflow of tourism money to these countries too since we can enjoy a foreign experience of our choice by visiting PWC and still make it back home in time for our next episode of sitcom on Astro. 

Finally, it is odd to note that Ivory, the successful bidder, is now left being a minority shareholder in TISB. TISB is a joint-venture company in which Dijaya Corporation Bhd holds a 55% stake, while Ivory Properties Group Bhd the remaining 45%. In the agreement with Dijaya Corporation Bhd, Ivory is the turnkey builder for PWC and will thus be entitled to 48% of the project’s gross revenue with the amount due to the company estimated at RM5billion. 

The deal is getting more complicated by the day. From a successful bid and a 70% stake in the joint venture, Ivory is now a minority shareholder of a SPV and a turn key contractor for a backdoor controlling shareholder of PWC which will be built on Bayan Mutiara prime land. Did the state government see this coming or it is a willing player all along?

Like I have said earlier, Dap's reluctance or failure to provide a thorough, transparent, accountable and justifiable explanation on the Bayan Mutiara deal is going to offset and cancel out the goodwill it has done thus far.

Make no mistake, I think the Lim administration has done a good job in lifting the morale of many people in Penang. I am an admirer and a supporter of good governance. I believe Guan Eng would readily admit that I was one of the few who were instrumental in persuading him to contest in Penang and I was glad I did so.

However, such policy relapse can prove costly to his party's socialist orientation and pledge to look after the interest and needs of the bottom 40%. Moreover, Pakatan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has pledged to fight for the lower classes in the next general election against the cronies in Umno.

We are merely asking the Pakatan government in Penang to walk the talk by ensuring that the poor, average Penangites, workers and lower income group are not being marginalized and excluded from the PWC. Like any other housing projects today, prices are immediately driven up by rich speculators who would buy for the purpose of profit taking leaving genuine buyers out in the cold.

Please review the PWC master plan for the sake of average Penangites.

Monday, March 26, 2012

325 Issue: Wee Ka Siong Should Resign


From The Star:
Wee is willing to step down immediately as Deputy Education Minister if the move would solve the shortage of teachers in Chinese primary schools.

He said he arrived at the decision after discovering that many people who attended the United Chinese School Committee's Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) rally in Kajang on Sunday had chided the MCA for being unable to solve the long-outstanding issue.

He said some had called him to resign.
“There are other ways to solve this issue. Would jeering and hurling abuses resolve the shortage?
“And if stepping down would solve this issue once and for all, I, Wee Ka Siong would immediately do so,” he said in his speech at a dinner organised by Kota Melaka MCA here on Sunday night.
He stressed that the MCA would go all out to solve the Chinese education issue and the party's interest in the matter was no less than those who attended the demonstration.
It is apparent that Wee has failed to win over the confidence of Dong Zong and supporters of Chinese vernacular education. Wee's 8-point solution was a direct reaction to the Dong Zong's 325 rally call. It is unfortunate that the Deputy Minister did not do much to resolve the issue of a lack of qualified Chinese educated teachers since he was made a deputy minister of education 3 years ago. 

Dong Zong is right to say that they are fed up and tired of listening to proposals and suggestions presented to them by the ruling regime but nothing has come out so far. 

Barisan, especially Umno, has a severe problem. It is reluctant to do what is right for the Chinese if such action can be seen as giving in to the Chinese community. This 'Ketuanan Melayu' mentality is stopping a compliant party like MCA from doing anything for the Chinese vernacular education.

I have said it more than once, if the government accepts and recognizes the Chinese vernacular education as part of the Malaysian education system there is no reason for the government not to provide the vernacular education stream with all the assistance and help it deserves.

For this, Wee should resign not because it is going to help resolve the problem. But Wee should resign for not doing his job and for not recognizing this issue as one of the most important issues he should tackle upon being appointed as the deputy education minister.

Wee should hold up his head high and quit because he has lost the confidence of the Chinese education group and stakeholders. The reception he received at the 325 rally is too embarrassing for him to stay on as a deputy minister.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Oracle of Syed Putra is Going Off Key?

Malaysia Chronicle reproduced Daim's interview with Nanyang Siang Pau, the Umno veteran said it will not augur well for the country in the long run if the results of the next general election show that the Malay and Indian voters generally supported the Barisan Nasional (BN) while the Chinese mostly voted for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
"He said the Chinese voters should realise that Malaysia, being a multiracial country, cannot afford any risk of political instability.
Daim felt that Chinese voters should look at things from the Malaysian perspectives as all issues are Malaysian issues.
He said the electorate must know that no government is perfect, and the longer the government stays, the more mistakes it makes, and the Pakatan is no exception.
He said the Chinese voters should vote in the interest of the country and not based on sentiments, which is a very dangerous move.
He said he understood that some 80% of the Chinese voters have already decided to support the Pakatan, ignoring all the efforts of the BN. The bottomline is, they support the opposition, he said.
"To me, this is an emotional decision. You cannot say, 'no matter whether you (the government) are good or no good, all I want is to topple you'."
The Oracle of Syed Putra is going off key again in this interview. Perhaps Sakmongkol AK47 (Dap's Ariff Sabri) might want to help us verify if the Oracle is being forced to play "wayang kulit" (shadow play) or it's the reporter's fault again. 
Daim has said it again and he sounds as racist as the rest of the Barisan Nasional leaders who are trying to put the burden of preserving Malaysia's political stability on the shoulders of Malaysian Chinese. Unfortunately, the argument made by our learned Oracle can be easily rebutted because it contained contradictions and inconsistencies.
First, what makes him say that the Chinese voters are generally looking at issues through their ethnic lenses? Are the issues of corruption (PKFZ, NFCorp, Bakun, Perwaja, French sub-marine deal, the latest MEX deal etc.), institutional racism, custodial death, unlawful police actions, credibility deficit of public institutions such as MACC, the judiciary, the Attorney General Office etc., pervasive hooliganism in politics, poor public governance et cetera not Malaysian issues but exclusively Chinese? 
If this is Daim's argument, then kudos to the Malaysian Chinese voters for being loyal and patriotic citizens of the country. At least they have the right conscience and moral fiber to stand up against abuse of power and negative political excesses to stop this country from rotting at its core. 
Daim must not forget that the same voters he is blaming for being emotional had stood by the government during  its worse political crisis during the 1990 and 1999 massive split in Malay support for the UMNO/BN government due to internal bickering in the party. 
These voters had voted throughout the 90s and early 2000 for political stability hoping that the ruling coalition is ready to change for the better. These voters gave Abdullah Badawi his biggest mandate in the history of Malaysian politics to push through the reforms he had promised. What had happened? The overwhelming mandate did not bring about reforms but resulted in the worse political arrogance we had never seen for a long time - the Keris kissing and fanatical pro-Malay slogans aiming at the Malaysian Chinese in particular.
The voters are not being emotional for exercising their right to choose a government or elected representatives they deemed fit to govern this country and to represent them in the august house.
Until and unless the Barisan Nasional shows some political will and sincerity to bring closure to a growing number of 'mistakes' these voters, not just the Chinese but more informed urban voters, will reject the regime. 
Daim contradicts himself by admitting that the longer a government stays in power the more mistakes it is bound to make. This is what we called 'complacency' and taking their leadership for granted. Gone are the times when the people are willing to write the ruling government a blank cheque. 
Yes, I agree that Pakatan should not take their current gains for granted too. Many of us, the moderates, are willing to criticize leaders of the coalition for committing the same mistakes. 
In fact, Barisan should be held totally responsible for the current political situation. If not for their repeated folly and mistakes, albeit lacking any willingness to change or correct their mistakes, they are making the Pakatan leaders looking like angels. To a certain degree, it has made some of their leaders behaving arrogantly and becoming intolerable to legitimate and fair criticism. Some of their supporters are behaving no better than the Barisan's hardcore members. 
Rest assured, many Malaysian Chinese voters like myself will do our part to ensure that politicians from both sides of the divide will not take us or this beloved country  for granted.
So, to the Oracle of Syed Putra, who is being emotional? Daim should not look at the current electoral trends through his own racial prejudices. 
If not, Sakmongkol AK47 might want to declare the position of Oracle of Syed Putra vacant. Perhaps Sakmongkol might want to look for a more reliable Sifu of Petaling Street for his least skewed political vision. I can introduce him to the learned non-racial sifu. 

Lynas Should Bring a "Good Product" Back to Australia

Lynas CEO Nick Curtis said "rare earths are not a bad product they are a good product." They enable our lives to go forward they are a product that enables cleaner society healthier society. They are good products. They can be done cleanly.

His assistant, Wee Tiat Eng, performed a live demonstration by reading the radiation levels of rare earth's residue and compared it to a banana.

MCA Chua Soi Lek supported the claim by saying that a person undergoing an X-ray exposes himself to 500 times the radiation found in the residue.

It is so simple, Nick. If it is really so good we really do not mind you bring it back to Australia and share it exclusively with your countrymen. Yes, we rather have banana trees than a rare earth plant. Is it so difficult to understand and accept?

Yes, the people of Kuantan and particularly Gebeng are suffering from mental trauma and stress over the plant. It is a serious mental issue which could affect their health, well-being and social life. Families may need to move away from the area fearing water contamination and long term exposure to the radiation, however low risk Lynas may claim.

Chua the doctor appears to be less sensitive to the fear of common people. How to compare with X-ray exposure? Some of us only conduct body check-up once a year and are exposed to X-ray for less than 2 seconds. Can it be compared to a 24 x 7 exposure to rare earth's residue?

If it is so safe as claimed by Nick, Wee and Chua then it makes no sense for the Australian government not to allow rare earth production in the country. It would be much more cost effective for the company to run the production on their turf than shipping them to be processed in Malaysia.

What is the point of forcing the plant on local residents of Kuantan and Gebeng? Lynas is obviously not welcomed by the local residents in the area.

What is MCA stand on Lynas? Chua Soi Lek should just make it LOUD and CLEAR. We will VOTE out MCA candidates if it is the official stand of the party to support a Lynas rare earth plant in Malaysia. This is a deserving reaction to a so-called 'People First' government.

Election Commission Leadership: Shape Up or Ship Out!

Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenivasan has warned the federal government of a possible Bersih 3.0 due to lagging polls reforms and unsuspected surge of voters in certain constituencies. It is highly possible we are facing one of the most stubborn and bias 'independent' institutions in Malaysia, the Election Commission.

The EC chieftains continue to flip flop on what they are empowered to do and what they should do to ensure better protection of democracy and a fairer electoral process. Earlier, a group of overseas Malaysians had demanded for a right to vote. Unfortunately, the EC and several Barisan leaders had rubbished the idea. MCA Chua Soi Lek said it would be too costly and impractical to hold overseas voting at embassies. 

This is a price to pay for real democracy. If countries such as Singapore can do it why can't we? After all, this government has never been known for its financial prudence. It is certainly a money well spent compared to worse financial crisis and scandals we had faced.

Recently, several Pakatan leaders including Azmin Ali, along with PAS' Kuala Krai MP Hatta Ramli and DAP's Rasah parliamentarian Anthony Loke, had condemned the EC for its failure to address serious problems with the electoral roll.

During the PSC meetings, Azmin said, the EC testified that it could not clean up the electoral roll because it has no power to remove names that even it confirmed as "dubious".

Azmin referred to the 42,000 names the EC had agreed were dubious as they lacked proper addresses and details.

According to him, the EC said it was powerless to take off the gazetted official electoral roll as that would be against the law, despite promising to do so earlier.

This is not an isolated case. The commission has been trying at any possible attempt to increase the number of postal voters by calling for their staff and members of the media to be allowed to cast their votes via postal voting. 

Postal vote has been identified as one of the main avenues for electoral fraud. PSC has been trying to reduce the number of postal voters.

If the EC is powerless to do what it has been empowered to do by the constitution, it is time to change its leadership and appoint those who are willing to act without fear or favour to ensure a fair and just electoral process.

Our democracy and fate cannot be rested on a few recalcitrant individuals whose attitude and non-compliance may tarnish the credibility of our electoral democracy. 

It is time to be accountable and clean up the electoral roll, implement rules which will level the playing field, appoint a real caretaker government during the campaign period to ensure no abuse of public funds for political advantage by incumbents and allow fair and free campaigns.

We need a Puss in Boots and not a pussy cat in EC! Or it is time to bring on the Bersih 3.0. This time we mean business. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Spot a Third Class Parliament?

Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia has rejected an urgent motion to thrash out the controversies surrounding the National Feedlot Centre (NFC), on the grounds that the matter is now rests with the court.

The Dewan Rakyat has turned down four questions related to the settlement struck between former Malaysia Airlines chairperson Tajudin Ramli and government-linked corporations (GLCs), saying that the question were sub judice.

The questions were rejected on the reasoning that it could have an implication to other ongoing legal battles at the Court of Appeal and pending cases in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Did the government choose to hide behind the judiciary? What is the purpose of a parliament if issues of significance especially those which involved public coffers and accountability cannot be discussed in the parliament?

Both controversies are linked to governance and public policy. The fact that the government did not initiate an audit on NFC after irregularities were discovered by the Auditor General already justifies a motion in the parliament. 

The government says it wants to learn from its past mistakes but we found out that old habits die hard.

On MAS, why is Tajudin allowed to scoot away without having to the compensation granted by the High Court? Again, this is purely government's decision to agree on such settlement. Yet, the motion to discuss the rational of such generous settlement was disallowed?

If this parliament can allow motions on Palestine and Iraq, it should have allowed motions which are serious and already in the public domain.

Why should we pay the salary of our parliamentarians and speaker of the house if they are not allowed to do their job?

Is it so difficult to spot a third class parliament? 

Sack the speaker! This is something our prime minister can do to show us that he is serious about reforms. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sharizat's Exit: What Sacrifice, Mr Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Najib Razak commended his fellow minister Sharizat Jalil for "her decision to sacrifice herself and quit the cabinet for the sake of the government and Umno".

He said there is no proof so far that she had committed any offence" related to the National Feedlot Centre scandal. NFC is run by Sharizat's husband and her children.

Once again, Najib's statement does not give us much confidence in his ability to learn from the past and correct the mistakes. If his government is as professional and accountable as he claims, Sharizat would have been asked to withdraw from the cabinet pending investigation into the alleged scandal.

Unfortunately, several Umno leaders such as Khairy, Nazri and Muhyiddin had tried to defend the NFC executives and blamed the whistle blower. Reactions from these leaders did not help to restore the credibility of Umno and help to convince us that the party, which has been in power for more than half a century, is able to correct its own mistakes.

Najib is thankful to Sharizat for agreeing to step aside after the end of her senator term. If she has any moral fiber as a leader, she should step down for the mismanagement of NFC, a very important project using public money, and apologize on the behalf of her family. It is impossible and almost unbelievable if Sharizat claims no knowledge on how the funds have been abused and misused to invest in properties and other avenues other than what the NFC was mandated to do.

Najib is grateful to Sharizat but we are not and will not feel the same. In fact, I think the Prime Minister sounded lame and ridiculous. How can we expect the Prime Minister to act sternly against any future scandals and cases involving his party's leaders if he continues to behave this way?

Why is MACC still dragging its feet after four months since the scandal broke out? MACC must not be seen as being partial to members of a certain political party.

Najib's gratefulness is a setback to his reform/transformation promises and cancels out his earlier apology. He must remember where he stands. He has a duty to ensure that no one plunders the national coffers.

What sacrifice, Mr Prime Minister? Care to explain? How do you plan to recover back our money?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Please Respect SAM and CAP View on Mega Infrastructure Projects in Penang

Public discourse on governance issues related to the Penang state government, especially Dap leaders, has been attracting worrying and often rude responses from hardcore Pakatan/Dap supporters. Some of the responses had resorted to unbecoming name calling, racism and illogical argument. 

Recently, two NGOs - Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Consumers Association of Penang - both led by veteran activist SM Mohamed Idris had questioned the "transparency and openness" of the state government, claiming it lacked public consultation on planned infrastructure projects. 

To be fair to SM Mohamed Idris, his complaint is reasonable and important. The NGOs had merely asked the state government to hold back the announcement of these huge infrastructure projects until the Transport Master Plan is being tabled. Like it or not, Penang's traffic congestion has been one of the major turnoffs to residents and visitors. 

Previously in the Opposition, some Dap leaders had been critical of major highway projects such as PORR. The construction of these projects will not only burden motorists with unnecessary toll charges but also an anti-thesis to the efforts to find viable and permanent solutions to Penang's public transport woes. 

Here's what the NGOs said:

"Recent press reports state that the Penang government will call for a request of proposals for the construction of the 6.5 km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam undersea tunnel, 12 km road connecting Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang, 4.2km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu bypass and 4.6km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass. These projects are expected to be funded by land swap deals with prospective companies.
These mega projects costing billions of dollars which ultimately have to come from public resources, are meant to speed up motor traffic but not to provide affordable and efficient transport for the public.
The undersea tunnel in addition to the new bridge which is scheduled to be operational shortly, will serve only to bring more motor vehicles into the island contributing to the worsening of traffic congestion. As it is, there are more cars than people on the island. So any addition will have serious traffic impacts."
The two NGOs have called for more public consultation before any decision being made to approve the projects. However, SM Mohamed Idris' statement had courted some of the nastiest and unbecoming comments on presumably from hardcore supporters of the state government. Some of these comments are racist, rude and illogical:
wfworker Another Mamak's plot in the name of his public interests!
FLYING EAGLE CAP you are so critical to the Penang State Government under PR about the development without 'your approval'. will CAP be more CRITICAL likewise against the Federal Government for alloting the 2 companies (one under retired CJ's wife co. and the other the lawyer's co. who is UMNO panel of lawyer) for the project costing RM2.2 billion? CAP stands for - Consumers Association of Penang
Chin Tu Lan Cap, you want penang govt to make it public so that the notorious mamak can go there and make fool of themselves again. Consultation means to seek your views and the final decision is made by the state govt. you are the stake holders and you are required to provide input. Now cap wants to decide. Then its about time you register a political party and stand for election.
There is no need to insinuate that Idris is an Indian Muslim (mamak). He is a leader of two NGOs and a Malaysian citizen. He has as much democratic rights as anyone of us to express his views.   
Next, the Transportation Master Plan in Penang is an important issue. Hence, why can't CAP, which is a Penang based NGO, focus on Penang centric issues? If NGOs have to be registered as political parties before they can question the state government then all voters must become members of political parties too before they can exercise their voting rights?
I notice that such rude and crude reaction towards legitimate criticism and queries from stakeholders and activists has become chronic and rampant. Hardcore supporters might want to exercise restraint before their action being misinterpreted as a new dawn of political arrogance. 
Chief minister's political secretary Zairil Mohd Khir has dismissed the claim, saying that the state has revealed public information on the projects, while his boss, Lim Guan Eng had attended two consultation sessions with NGO representatives.
Zairil should take note that two consultation sessions with NGO representatives do not constitute a comprehensive public consultation. In countries such as USA, Australia, Canada, Singapore and other first world governments would normally hold extensive public feedback sessions and town hall meetings to provide crucial information on such massive public infrastructure projects. 
In addition, exhibitions are held to provide useful technical layouts and information to interested public. All questions are often answered without the need to issue any press statement to deny a lack of public consultation. A proper PR strategy would be to immediately release all pertinent information about the projects and invite members of the public to write in to the secretariat regarding their concerns and questions about the projects.
Ironically Zairil is the newly minted CEO of Penang Institute, a think tank to the state government. I am sure his institute is prepared to play the role of a secretariat to provide proper explanation to the public. 
Another activist, Anil Netto, retorted: "For me the real issue is, in view of increasing congestion, rising oil prices, depletion of oil and other natural resources and climate change, should we be spending billions on highways and a tunnel or investing all that money in more sustainable transport alternatives?"
Anil has succinctly expressed my feeling as a Penangite. How many new highways, tunnels and roads can Penang island susport? How many additional private vehicles can the island absorb without creating chocking bottlenecks and traffic jams? Is there any plan for alternative mode of public transportation in Penang?
The newly elected state government should justify their capability by giving us a sustainable and viable solution to public transportation and mobility. It is easy to build and fund highways by pawning away our land banks. But it takes good governance, technical know-how and policy mastery to come out with a viable and sustainable Transportation Master Plan.
There is also a misconception about the true meaning of Open Tender. An open tender is not a simple process of putting up an advertisement on major newspapers inviting companies to tender for a project. An open tender requires a transparent and open process of informing the public why a particular company is being picked for a project and to aptly inform other tenders why they were not successful. Often the process of an Open Tender in Malaysia is not that open.  
State political secretaries, assistants, think tankers and staff should refrain from any act(s) aiming at suppressing legitimate and fair criticism by claiming that its the work of pro-BN protagonists trying to sabotage the state government. In short, do not hide behind the Devil's cloak.  
I am sure the state government is capable of providing a responsible and comprehensive reply to the two NGOs and other concerned individuals like Anil Netto et cetera.

Pas Embraces Pluralism: Hadi's Important Policy Speech

Pas President Abdul Hadi Awang gave one of the most significant policy speeches as a leader of the Islamic party. Critics of the party's alleged exclusive Islamic ambition and its unholy liaison with Dap should sit up and take note.

Hadi said "Pas upholds and defends the rights of all Malaysians regardless of their faith and not just Malays" and told his detractors that "Islam was not tied to any race or national identity, and its basic tenets pushed for fairness for a plural society with people from different religions." He emphasized that "Pas embraced the idea of pluralism in a society and the need to care for all races using the principles of Islam as the main guideline"

With his speech, Hadi has set his party on a different path compared to UMNO. He has said it clear and loud- UMNO's race centric politics is not suitable and consistent with Pas' Islamic spirit and political struggle.

Kudos for Hadi for not playing to the gallery and for having the political maturity not to try to better UMNO in the politics of race which has been a divisive force within the fragile Malaysian society.

Hadi's speech is also a direct challenge to MCA's criticism of the party's Islamic ambition. If Pas is willing to adopt and embrace pluralism, MCA will be hard pressed to convince non-Malay voters that UMNO is ready to do the same. It would be inconceivable for UMNO to make the same claim without dismantling its layers of race chauvinistic policies including the dichotomy between Bumi and Non-Bumi.

Instead of playing with racial and religious fire, MCA should have taken a cue from the Alliance shocking electoral rejection in the 1969 GE. The three-race coalition lost the popular vote but was returned as a ruling government only through devious gerrymandering which had made it virtually impossible for the Opposition to capture power without any near Herculean swing in votes of at least 65-70%.  Alliance had taken an important overhaul to enlarge the coalition by being more inclusive of minority races.

MCA should have focused its effort and attention to try to persuade UMNO to ditch BN's race based model by making Barisan a truly Malaysian political party.

It would be interesting to see if its leaders are sharp enough to notice the significance of Hadi's speech on pluralism.

If MCA still continue to behave the same, it is safe to say that the party has completely lost its political instinct and is doom to ride into oblivion in the next GE.

MCA can continue to dabble in denial but it is true that Pas, despite a real threat of alienating the hardcore Malay ground, has chosen to reach out to all Malaysians and support pluralism. This makes the party's candidates more ELECTABLE than UMNO's.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Pas' Folly in Kedah: A Lesson in Leadership Selection


This is not the first time Kedah Chief Minister Azizan Abdul Razak has courted controversy. The embattled CM had courted controversy in the past over his decision to set up a high Malay quota for housing projects in the state which had caused uproar from developers in the state.

He was embroiled in several spats with PKR assemblymen over his old school politics and overzealous tendency to flex his Islamic credentials through some very odd measures. This time, he has caught the irk of his own Pas colleagues and exco members. Two of them, led by Phahrolrazi Mohd Nawawi, refused to accept reappointment as state excos and threw his administration into jeopardy.

Pas central committee had to intervene before the full meltdown. Their leadership has installed a PAS steering committee to monitor and assist the Kedah government (or to clip Azizan's wings). This move has been deemed as controversial and odd. 

Their BN Opponents had criticized the move as unconstitutional and disrespectful to the office of Chief Minister who was appointed at the consent of the Sultan of Kedah (and current King). It was seen as a direct interference of the state administration by the Pas central leadership.

Azizan was appointed the CM because of his loyalty and seniority rather than his ability to govern and lead the Kedah government.

The move by Pas central leadership is as good as telling us that Azizan does not measure up as a leader. If this is the case, they should have replaced him with another capable leader and not risk being accused as trying to make a mockery of the state constitution.

Pakatan leadership should take heed of this development seriously. Their leaders are often quick to accuse the BN for flouting rule of law. They should be mindful not to commit the same. Public discourse is becoming meaningless if Pakatan leaders and supporters can only accept criticism being hurled at BN but not at their own coalition and leaders. I hope they will use the same yardstick to measure their own action if we are going to succeed in creating a first world governance and political system.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Can 'Brave' Chua Soi Lek Win Back Chinese Support for BN?

The 'Oracle of Syed Putra' has spoken and we must accept it as God sent mantra of truth. I am not too sure if the rest of us are referring to the same person/persona as Dap poster boy, Ariff Sabri. According to Ariff, who blogs as Sakmongkol AK47, the Oracle said Barisan in trouble and Najib has lost the plot in managing the country.

But Daim isn't saying the same thing to a host of mass media who interviewed him. He regarded MCA President Chua Soi Lek as a leader who has bravely spoken up for the interest of the community. I am unsure what Chua has spoken up for me but I have not heard him telling the government to treat all its citizens fairly and stop the distinction between Bumi-and-Non-Bumi. It is really a silly political game which aims at divide-and-rule the people. 

If you are Chinese and you are poor. You are still poor. No point harping about how the NEP had helped to enriched people like Vincent Tan, Francis Yeoh, Robert Kuok or the late Lim Goh Tong. The only similarity the rich Chinese tycoons have with poor Chinese coolies is the ethnicity. What is theirs is theirs and whatever my woes are remain mine alone. They are not obliged to share their wealth with the poor Chinese. So, should we rejoice a few billionaires and disregard millions of poor?  

What did Chua speak up for me? Chua was brave enough to tell us that MCA is not going to join the government if the party performs worse than 2008. He told us a vote for Dap is a vote of Pas and we should be very afraid of Pas' Islamic ambition to implement Hudud. 

Did Chua even understand what troubled the Chinese community? What is his party stand on various issues such as political thuggery, Lynas rare earth processing plant, corruption, NEP which breeds cronyism and nepotism (cases of ministers' families being given lucrative government contracts) and others?

Did Chua speak up against the political arrogance of Umno and its association and tacit support for right wing and racist organizations such as Perkasa?

The Oracle should know one very important fact. It is difficult for MCA and Chua to sell Umno to the Chinese voters. Chua must prove that he has the political will and courage to stand up against what's wrong in Umno and the latter excesses in the government. Chua cannot use fear (of Hudud and Pas) to try to lure back Chinese support to his party. 

It is good to be brave but it is more important to be righteous. 

Now Daim is saying that we will have a better future under Najib's economic model. Which model? NEP or NEM? ETP, GPP, 1(Everything), KRA and whatelse?

Daim says Malaysia has the base to become a great economy because it has the workforce, resources and infrastructure as well as flexible institutions and policies to generate high economic growth. Which country does not have the workforce, resources and infrastructure? 

What Daim did not elaborate on Malaysia's continuous dependence of cheap foreign labour and unskilled workforce. SMI associations are arguing that the implementation of RM900-1000 minimum wage may cause 80% of them to close down. If local workforce are going to earn such inhumane level of salary, these SMIs might as well close shop. 

Logically, this helps to explain why Malaysia's brightest and skilled are not working in the country when they can obtain 3-4 times the pay outside the country. Malaysia has long been an employer market since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Entry level salary has remained stagnant for the past one and half decade. 

We should not blame the government solely for the minimum wage issue. The implementation of minimum wage requires the support and collaboration of all including employers and employees. I agree that higher wages must be compensated with higher productivity and better work attitude. The solution to rectify Malaysia middle income trap crisis is not as easy as merely the implementation of minimum wage if all parties are not willing to address more pertinent and serious challenges together.

Does Najib economic model spells out the solution? Even Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan coalition does not have a solution to the problem apart from promising to implement minimum wage of RM1200 if they win Putrajaya, a move which may isolate the employers and business owners. 

Ironically the Oracle did not address the issue of wastage when he spoke about resources. Our oil reserve is dwindling and drying up. Petronas has warned of depleting revenue moving closer to year 2017. Almost half of government's budget is dependent on oil and oil related revenues. Did we use our finite resources wisely? 

Is the Oracle predicting a stop to wastage, corruption and misuse of resources? Why are public infrastructure projects are still being awarded to companies (or cronies) at exorbitant price?

I would like to say that the Oracle of Syed Putra is still a political and not a 'medicine man' or 'political bomoh' that Sakmongkol/Ariff claimed he was.

Nonetheless, Ariff should still continue to humour us with his 'Oracle of Syed Putra' series. They are well written and entertaining. I am sure a lot of opposition supporters and his own colleagues in Dap needed some motivation reading the gloomy prognosis doled out by the Oracle on Najib's BN chances in the next GE. On the flip side, I am sure MCA leaders and supporters are very happy and relieved reading the Oracle singing praises of their daring leader. 

Welcome to Malaysia's political talk! Sensational but at times senseless.