Monday, May 28, 2012

Thug Culture & UMNO's Dilemma

UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has denied that his party was a culprit for arranging ill mannered youths and burly looking men to disrupt Pakatan and Bersih gatherings around the country. However, these ruffians have proudly displayed their allegiance and association with his party by wearing UMNO's t-shirt and waving UMNO's flag.

UMNO has appeared to have outsourced brainless, use of violence and intimidation and gutter politics to their extreme right-winged association, the Perkasa which is being led by a shameless and noisy opportunist from Kelantan, Ibrahim Ali.

Khairy has denied his party being the chief culprit but he has not come out to criticize these atrocious actions of causing harm and nuisance to his oppositions and the public. He can't come down hard on Perkasa and their goons because his nemesis Dr Mahathir, who is the party's patriarch, had categorically asked UMNO to accept and support Perkasa.

Ironically, this man had blamed Bersih for starting a riot to overthrow the government but is patronizing an association which is sending its members around the country to create ruckus. Mahathir is a classic case of contradiction and irony. A master politician he is not but a person who is very good at pulling a straight face for saying the most outrageous thing.

Anyway, Khairy the Oxford trained economist should do his math well. How can he hope to win more votes and sweep the middle ground voters off their feet if his party is condoning violence and worshiping the father of all contradictions?

Some of us, the middle ground, choose not to vote for UMNO and Barisan Nasional because the party is has failed to correct its weaknesses, wrongs and behaviour. In fact, by now we have accepted that UMNO is unable to change because it is not in its DNA to do so.

When UMNO gets too strong, it throws its weight around. When it gets shaken and weaken, it starts to use violence and throw its weight around as well. As a result, the party has taken down  the entire administration and public institutions with it.

The MACC, the Election Commission, the PDRM, the Judiciary, the AG Chamber and the list goes on. Which one is not tainted or appeared suspiciously partisan?


Khairy should wake up. Najib should do the same too before it is too late. He might find out that another monkey has stolen his crown.

UMNO is in a dilemma. It can no longer control the monster it has created - Perkasa and its thugs!

We should vote them out. This the most we can do.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Too early to rejoice over Myanmar’s reforms

THE euphoria about Myanmar’s economic reforms remains just that – euphoria. A lot has been written about Myanmar being the next economic frontier in Asia but in reality things haven’t changed much in the most reclusive country in South-East Asia.

No doubt U Thein Sein has been making the right moves and buzzes to attract global attention to his regime’s self-initiated reforms. Since “winning” power through a controversial general election in 2010, his administration has released hundreds of political prisoners and detractors.

He had impressed the international community after he persuaded Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, to participate in and legitimise the April by-elections for 44 seats vacated by his Cabinet ministers.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory and she was formally sworn into the parliament after a short stand-off with the government over the script of her oath. Her endorsement of Myanmar’s political process and her confidence in U Thein Sein’s sincerity to implement reforms are seen as key catalysts in pushing for Myanmar’s re-integration with the international community, especially Asean.
U Thein Sein has warned that “conservatives who do not have a reformist mindset will be left behind” while the country is on its path to change. The premier has admitted that there is a real desire for national development and his government must improve their service at each administrative level to measure up to the people’s expectations.
However, Myanmar’s economic reforms can prove to be very difficult, challenging and time consuming. Despite calls for international investors to invest in the country, the level of bureaucracy, centralisation of power and lack of a formal investment and economic development framework are deterring factors.
Most foreign companies stationed in Myanmar are still playing the waiting game. They are waiting for the announcement of full and detailed investment guidelines, which the government has promised to release. The guidelines would need to be passed in the Myanmar parliament and are expected to be enacted by the third quarter of 2012.
Without proper official guidelines, foreign investors are facing a bureaucratic merry-go-round and “ridiculous” terms as they seek approvals for land or building leases. Foreigners are not allowed to own or buy building or land in Myanmar. The government has announced its intention to allow leasing of colonial buildings for more than 50 years through tenders.
However, the government has not approved any tender in the last 12 months due to bureaucratic uncertainty, and there is no benchmark for subsequent tender applications. A British Myanmar chief executive who is familiar with the tender process said his company has been waiting for the last four months to be informed if it has been shortlisted for a tender for a colonial building along the popular Strand Road. He hinted that some companies may be asked to pay a hefty “signing bonus”, which may run into millions of dollars, to obtain relevant approvals.
He added that despite the euphoria for change, the mindset and culture of the administration and people might take a longer time to adjust.
U Thein Sein has admitted that his administrators may find it tough to keep up with the pace of his reforms. His call for decentralisation may still fall on deaf ears. It is a fact that Myanmar does not have the right institutional structure to help him implement the changes he has envisaged.
Foreign companies going into Myanmar and hoping to find an immediate pot of gold may find the road to Yangon (the country’s economic centre) is covered not with precious stones but obstacles and out-of-the-world circumstances. It is not that easy even to incorporate a local company in Myanmar. Those who are interested must obtain a support letter from their own embassy and submit documented proof that the company is genuine and has a strong financial background.
Final approval must come from the Myanmar Investment Committee (MIC) before a company can assume its legal identity. Even after going through the tedious process and paying US$2,500 (RM7,856) for incorporation, a foreign company is not allowed to participate in trading activities in Myanmar.
The main governing body for foreign investment law in Myanmar, the MIC must approve all foreign investments going into the country. It is the epitome of over centralisation. Apart from approving foreign investments and new company registrations, the MIC also decides on applications for any property and land lease above one year. The approval process normally takes up to two months if the application meets all legal provisions.
Talking about out-of-the-world circumstances, rental or lease rates in Yangon may shock many unprepared foreign investors. A barely 600 square foot commercial space along the busy streets can cost up to US$6,000 (RM18,854) per month in rental. A decent apartment unit or flat can go up to US$3,000 (RM9,427) per month.
It is well known that Yangon does not have proper infrastructure to support a modern economy. It is not uncommon to experience multiple interruptions in electricity supply throughout the day even in the classiest hotels. But its mix of old colonial elements and a heavy dose of Buddhist culture can be quite alluring.
Read the rest of article here.

Khoo Kay Peng is a business consultant and a policy analyst. He can be contacted at

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let This Sekinchan Ikan Bakar Man, Jamal Yunus, Taste His Own Medicine

Kuala Lumpur Traders and Residents’ Action Council chairperson and owner of 1Malaysia Fish Restaurant Jamal Md Yunus has declared that he is a supporter of any political party or politician. However, he has gone through great length to do something even a hardcore supporter can't muster to do.

First, Jamal has branded his 18 restaurants as 1Malaysia Fish Restaurant or better known as Sekinchan Ikan Bakar Restaurant. As a luxury car dealer who has obviously benefited from APs handouts, he has offered two luxury cars to those who sign up and participate in the Bersih 4.0 protest. Of course, those who signed up must also visit and eat in his restaurants. The cars on offer are a 2005-model car which is worth RM225,000. The other car is a 2009-model Lamborghini Gallardo worth RM1.2 million.

What an opportunist, Jamal! This is better than even a guy who would advertise his thoughts on 1Malaysia and national unity on national newspapers. Brilliant! I am sure Perkasa and UMNO hardcore supporters would know where to eat and organize their functions in the following months running up to the general election.

Unfortunately, Jamal does not behave as a trader who is really affected by the Bersih 3.0 demonstration. He cannot fool anyone who was there. Those who had opened for business had probably made a killing that day for an entire week's profit. Those shops and eateries who had stayed opened during the 428 demonstration would have told us to bring it on every week!

Jamal is not such a generous guy if he has appeared to be so calculative in the first place. Do you expect a person such as Jamal to donate two luxury cars if he does not expect to make 100 x back in return?

He even charged a fee for those who wanted to participate in his Bersih 4.0 market.

I believe Jamal is probably an ambitious trader and businessman who wanted to impress his political bosses. Since Jamal is so rich and so generous, we should just stop giving him more business. There are other poorer restaurant owners selling ikan bakar who would appreciate and welcome our business.

We should 'Boycott' all of Jamal's 18 restaurants. Yes, he has a right to protest and voice out his opinion. We have a choice to choose not to patronize his restaurants.

Bersih 3.0 did not attempt to invade the privacy of anyone. It had merely requested to use the Dataran Merdeka which is a public space and big enough to accommodate a peaceful assembly. 

Jamal must be taught a lesson not to mess around with someone else's privacy and home. As a businessman, he must accept the risk associated with his behaviour. 

We have said that we will stand up for Ambiga and her courage to stand up for a clean and fair electoral system. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baljit: Perkasa Antics Will Cost BN; But No One Forces Gerakan to Stay in BN...

A local Gerakan politician has warned Barisan Nasional that Perkasa’s political frolics would cost the coalition massive vote loss, especially among non-Malays, in the next general election.
Given the general perception that Perkasa is a ‘subsidiary’ of Umno, Baljit Singh warned that other BN component parties would suffer politically as they are seen as “guilty by association” with Umno.
“Component parties like Gerakan, MIC and MCA are going to be the innocent victims.
“These parties will pay a heavy price for Perkasa antics. The voters will punish component parties for being associated with Umno. Malaysians are sick and tired of this gutter politics,” he said.
The point is why would Baljit and his party choose to become victims? Being in the same coalition with Umno means Gerakan is part of the dangerous liaison with Perkasa too. 
It is almost impossible for Gerakan to try to promote and market Umno and its brand of politics to non-Malay voters. In fact, Umno has been steadily losing urban Malay voters too in the last 15 years. 
Malay politics is fractured and disunited. Umno leaders are upset with a lack of Malay unity. But they are the biggest culprits who had caused a division in the Malay community. Such actions, e.g. the use of thugs and Perkasa members to create fear and disruption is not going to scare the middle ground. 
Baljit is right about Umno and its partners losing more support because of the use of violence and bigotry. 
But the question is why would Gerakan continue to stay put in BN when it is obvious that the liaison is not helping the party's survival? Are any Gerakan leaders benefit personally for staying put in the coalition? Are there any personal interests?
If Umno and Gerakan cannot give Baljit a clear answer, why would Baljit want to continue being a Gerakan member and hoping to contest on a BN ticket in the next GE?

FMT: ‘DAP should have questioned Tunku Aziz’

PETALING JAYA: DAP may have missed an opportunity to hear a different approach in the fight for clean and fair elections when it chose to admonish instead of challenging its vice-president, Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, over his criticism of the Bersih 3.0 rally.
Khoo Kay Peng , an independent political observer pointed out, the DAP leadership could have easily put Tengku Aziz in his place by demanding that he explain his statement and provide an alternative solution.
“If he thought Bersih’s way was the wrong way, then what was the right way?” Khoo asked. “Tengku Aziz must be able to answer this question in his capacity as a vice-president and a senator.”
“He cannot just stop by criticising everything without giving a solution because then the criticism would be pointless.”
Tunku Aziz broke ranks with the party leadership just days before the rally by saying that it would encourage Malaysians to “break the law” and predicted that it would end up in “violence and chaos”. His words rang true when police and protesters clashed an hour after the rally began.
In the aftermath, Tunku Aziz levelled further criticism at the Bersih 3.0 organisers and emphasised that they “are not a group of angels descended from heaven who are completely blameless.”
This earned him a rapping by DAP secretary-general, Lim Guan Eng, for going against the party’s stand and embarrassing the party leadership.
Yesterday Tunku Aziz confirmed that his remarks had cost him a re-election to his senator’s position when his term expires at the end of this month.
While Khoo declined to comment on the dropping of Tengku Aziz as senator, he said that Lim’s response had been “harsh” and that DAP had been inconsistent with its stand on democracy.
“Tunku Aziz had every right to speak his mind,” Khoo stated. “Agreeing to disagree is the whole basis of democracy.”
“DAP should learn to be consistent. If it is fighting for freedom of speech and assembly, then the leadership should also respect a person’s right to a dissenting opinion.”
MCA Wanita secretary-general, Chew Lee Giok, had earlier expressed the same opinion when she urged DAP not to take action against Tunku Aziz.
“It is a basic right for one to express his or her views and positions, and DAP should refrain from reverting to their normal methods of supressing dissidence,” she said on Monday.
DAP has nominated Prof Dr Ariffin Omar to replace Tunku Aziz and former MTUC president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud to replace Penang PKR election director Mustafa Kamal Mohd Yusoff.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Gutter Journalism: NST Should Sack Reporter & Repent

While the Malaysian media is under siege, the NST has brought additional shame to the fraternity. It has opted to become a political tool rather than uphold the highest integrity of the profession. However, this time the newspaper has stooped too low, shamefully low and dishonest. 

The New Straits Times has apologised to Australian senator Nicholas Xenophon over its report that said he made an anti-Islam speech in Australia's Parliament in 2009.

In a statement published on the NST website today, the daily said it had made a "grave error" in publishing the statements in the article.

"We accept that in his speech in the Australian Parliament referred to in the article, Mr Xenophon did not use the word 'Islam' and neither did he assert that Islam is not a religious organisation nor a criminal organisation hiding behind its religious belief.
"For the above reason, we hereby retract all the statements contained in the article against Mr Xenophon and unreservedly and unconditionally apologise to him for any distress or embarrassment caused by the article.

"As a further mark of our contrition, we have also removed the article from our online version of the newspaper with immediate effect," reads the statement.

An apology alone does not suffice. Both the news editor and reporter must be held responsible for the devious act. Both of them should kiss goodbye to their integrity and credibility in the industry. 

All media professionals should take this incident as a good lesson to ensure that they do not compromise, ever!

Xenophon is right to feel disgusted and appalled by the devious allegation to smear his name. Fortunately, the blade cuts the other way.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Action Against Bersih 3.0 Protesters But Not Rogue Policemen Will End Hishammuddin's Political Career

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the police are ready to haul up protesters responsible for Bersih 3.0 violence to face rioting charges. He said those "who are wrong remain wrong and will be dragged to court".  I am prepared to support the minister's action if he is consistent. He remains in a very dicey situation.

There are hundreds of photography and video evidences which showed that some policemen were  the aggressors too. Hishammuddin's political star is going burn out its last remaining shine if he remains selective in his action against the aggressors. 

IGP Ismail Omar apologised today to Malay Mail cameraman, Muhammad Arif Kartono, who claimed he was roughed up by police while covering the assembly at Dataran Merdeka, last Saturday. His apology alone is not enough. He has admitted, and rebuffed Hishammuddin, that the police did not act accordingly by confiscating and destroying cameras belonged to some newsmen. 

Apparently, some photography and video evidences also pointed at more serious breaches of SOP which included a traffic policeman pointing his gun at unarmed civilians, policemen beating up and using adverse violence against protesters (not as self-defense) and policemen charging into restaurants to chase out protesters who were having their meal. These provocations are unnecessary and not in accordance to the police SOP, not in Malaysia and anywhere in the world!

If this is a mature democracy, the home minister would have resigned for being incompetent and incapable for allowing a peaceful demonstration to become violent. Human rights activists would have pushed for the resignation of the home minister for being inconsistent with his action and being unscrupulous with public safety and security.

Two weeks before the demonstration, Hishammuddin had announced that it was not a threat to national security. But days before the event, he had backed down to the stubborn and recalcitrant behaviour of the appointed city mayor who insisted that it was an illegal assembly and subsequently ordered a clamp down of the city centre. Any democratic government would have sacked the mayor. Any democracy which respected the third vote would have dumped the mayor in an election.

Ironically, Hishammuddin is calling for further action of the aggressors without making any commitment to take a stern action against some wild seeds in his security squad. If any civilians are being hauled up to face justice but the equally wrong rogue policemen are allowed to scoot free, it will spell an end to Hishammuddin's career.

Hishammuddin can act gung-ho and tough, while it lasts! Malaysian voters will demand for fairness, consistency and accountability at the upcoming general elections. They would know what to do to Hishammuddin and his reelection attempt.