Archive for Abuse of Power

MIED saga continues: CEO slams Samy, Veerasingam

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on April 2, 2009 by ckchew

Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) chief executive officer P Chithrakala Vasu has accused MIC president S Samy Vellu of inculcating a culture of fear within the party and its education institutions resulting in mismanagement.

MCPX

MIED is the education arm of MIC, which is currently embroiled in a scandal and the subject of an investigation, with Samy Vellu and its CEO trading allegations.

Speaking to Malaysiakini last night, Chithirakala also attacked the party’s vice-president, S Veerasingam over his statement that MIED is allowed to give out study loans.

Describing Veerasingam as Samy Vellu’s ‘stooge’, she said no one was willing to respond to what she had alleged until now.

“Veerasingam claims to be a MIED board member when he issued a statement that the institute is allowed to give loans.

“Let me emphasise that Veerasingam’s claim that he is a member of the MIED board of directors was incorrect as he is not. Nobody resigned from the board and the board has not been meeting since 2003. So how can Veerasingam say that,” she scoffed.

In view of this, she said Veerasingam (left) had no right to claim MIED is allowed to give loans, when in fact it was wrong for the institute to do so.

Echoing in agreement to what former MIC Youth chief SA Vigneswaran had said on Monday , Chithrakala, who has helmed MIED for 14 years, said the fact remains that the institute is not allowed to give out study loans and it has no money lending license to collect payments.

“I have brought up this matter many times with Samy Vellu but he brushed it aside saying he will handle it,” she said.

“The fact remains according to MIED’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA) the institute is only allowed to give scholarships and grants and not study loans.

“Many of the MIED board members know about this, but they chose to keep quiet as they are afraid of Samy Vellu.” she added.

RM100 million given out in study loans

Yesterday, Veerasingam defended MIED, saying that it had every right to award study loans.

Veerasingam said the provision of financial assistance by way of loans is well in line with the objectives of MIED, which receives and administers funds for education. MIED is the leading provider of study loans to students from the Indian Malaysian community, who have been able to pursue their courses because of this aid.

This is contrary to the view of Vigneswaran, who had claimed on Monday that MIED is only allowed to give scholarships and grants and not study loans.

Vigneswaran, who also alleged that MIED had no money lending license to charge interests, said close to RM100 million in loans had been given out to approximately 10,000 poor students.

Meanwhile, the MIED CEO also pointed out that when MIED decided to give out loans despite not being allowed to do so, the task of drawing up the loan agreement was given to the law firm of SP Vaideveloo and Co, which is owned by Samy Vellu’s brother.

Chithirakala said when there were loan defaulters, she alerted lawyers from the firm that MIED had no right to give loans or collect interest payments, however the lawyers would say ‘hide the MAA’.

“I was the blue-eyed girl in MIED when I followed Samy Vellu’s instructions but once I went against him in disclosing such wrongdoings, the MIC president went all out against me. Such is the stranglehold that Samy Vellu has in MIED and MIC,” she claimed.

Chithirakala said most of MIED’s education projects had resulted in failure and wastege of money including Kolej Tafe and the rest.

She said the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (Aimst) University, which is 100 percent owned by MIED would also be another failure.

Samy’s nephew runs Aimst bursary

The MIED CEO said Aimst bursary is run by one of Samy Vellu’s nephew, who is the assistant bursar. She noted that no one had been appointed as bursary.

“He is a diploma holder in accounting and he cannot balance the books. If a student was to ask him how much he owed, he cannot give a figure,” she said.

“MIC and AIMST university staff know the problem but they cannot do anything as the assistant bursar is untouchable as he is related to Samy Vellu,” said Chithirakala.

Chithirakala said as a result of this, MIED could not submit its accounts to be audited since 2003, and the problem is wholly attributed to Aimst accounts.

“As a result of Aimst accounts not being able to be balanced, MIED could not submit its accounts. This is a recurring problem and cannot be rectified if Samy Vellu remains. Such is the scenario within MIC and its educational affiliates,” she said.

Chithirakala, has for the past month been on the warpath against Samy Vellu, who had accused her of misappropriation of funds and missing contract documents.

She in turn had lodged two police reports on Feb 28, disputing all claims of misdeeds.

Hafiz Yatim, Mkini

Ban “Altantuya” name – najib Altantuya crackdown bordering on najib Altantuya madness

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

With Datuk Seri Najib Razak all set to be sworn in as the sixth Prime Minister on Friday, all stops are off for a Najib crackdown – the latest being the ban on a Mongolian name, Altantuya Shariibuu, from public discourse.

When I said yesterday that Najib’s ascension as the next Prime Minister marks an enveloping darkness descending in all fronts of human rights, as hardly a day passes in the past fortnight without a new encroachment and erosion of the fundamental liberties whether freedom of speech, expression, assembly, association or the right to information, I had not expected to be vindicated again within 24 hours.

Sad. Very sad. It would appear as if Malaysia has not become enough of an international laughing stock in recent times chalking up a lengthening list of most shameful episodes, like

• the unethical, undemocratic, illegal and unconstitutional power grab in Perak orchestrated by Najib;

• wheelchair-bound DAP National Chairman and Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament, Karpal Singh mobbed by Selangor Umno Youth goons in the parliamentary precincts interfering and menacing him from carrying out his parliamentary duties and subsequently charged in court with sedition for stating what all law lecturers teach in the law schools in the country that Rulers are subject to the law and can be brought to court in their official and personal capacities;

• the one-year suspension of DAP MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo without parliamentary pay and privileges without giving him the right to be heard;

• my suspension from Parliament for saying that Umno is “gila kuasa” –which Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said as much in his farewell Umno presidential address the next day and which one Umno delegate adopted in the Umno Assembly general debate to pinpoint the causes of Umno’s downfall;

• the three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan;

• Police and MACC violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers in harassing the Perak State Assembly Speaker and Perak State Assembly members for performing their State Assembly functions; and only two nights ago,

• the arrest of DAP Perak State Assemblyman for Tebing Tinggi Ong Boon Piaw for producing the “Democracy Tree” DVD.

What makes Najib think that getting the police to ban the mention of “Altantunya Shariibuu” in the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections will end and release him from being haunted and hounded by serious swirling allegations about his suitability, integrity and legitimacy as the nation’s Prime Minister, particularly over the Altantuya Shariibuu murder case?

Will “Altantuya Shariibuu” become an unparliamentary term, justifying an MP to be suspended for a prolonged period or even expulsion for uttering the unspeakable Mongolian name?

Instead of quelling and quashing the swirling questions and allegations as to his role in the Altantuya Shariibuu murder case, the ridiculous ban on any mention of the Mongolian name will only have the effect of giving the questions and allegations a high-octane boost – giving even greater life, force and potency to them.

The Najib crackdown is bordering on a Najib madness – and all this even before Najib is sworn in as Prime Minister on Friday!

Lim Kit Siang

Shifting Blame – Afraid Jabu’s Fear

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by ckchew

By John Riwang <johnriwang@hotmail.com>

There was a time late last year when The Borneo Post Online decided to be on hiatus. The message “Our website is currently being upgraded. We apologize for the inconvenience” became its standard headline for over a month.

Because of their downgraded professionalism that desperately needed to be upgraded, a penniless boy like me had to spend my precious RM1 to buy the ‘hard copy’ version of the Borneo Post. What a pity. ‘A pity’ not because I was not able to gain valuable information from the local paper – that’s because it doesn’t have any. Rather I was deprived of my daily doses of laughter from reading the foolish statements made by our politicians.

But worry no longer, my friends! The Borneo Post Online has made its return to the cyberworld although, really, I can’t see their website being “upgraded” after the hiatus. Instead, they continue to publish our politicians’ habit of uttering remarkably witless statements in the paper. Oh, no, no. I am not ranting on the Batang Ai election drama. Everyone talk, write and blog about it these days. It’s too easy.

Today, I want to take you for a walk down the memory lane with The Borneo Post Online. Why? Well, people tend to easily forget these days, especially when stupid political statements are not repeated often enough in the media. Let’s consider this a gentle reminder of what kind of people we have governing our beloved state.

About Alfred Jabu to-day

Today’s article revolves around, yes, you guessed it: Afraid Jabu! This guy is really special, I tell you. Last December, The Borneo Post Online published an article December 11th, 2008 entitled ‘Jabu blames Bruno for Penan’s backwardness’, where Afraid Jabu sent a blistering attack on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for instigating the Penan to erect blockades.

de0385iHe claimed these blockades have severed all kinds of “development” that the peritah planned to bring to the hapless Penan in the interior. Of course, this isn’t the first time he denounced such NGOs. At times, he blames the Penan too! Also, he’s fond of using that word “instigate” to get his point through to people. Try Google “Jabu instigates” and you’ll see what I mean.

Afraid Jabu’s wrath with NGOs and Penans

So, in this article, Afraid Jabu claimed that “the action of such NGOs…had tarnished the image of the country, and Sarawak in particular.” He was specifically referring to Bruno Manser Fund’s (BMF) allegations of sexual abuse of young Penan girls by timber company workers. Afraid Jabu conveniently dismissed this report and considered it “a waste of time to investigate.”

Now, after reading Afraid Jabu’s countless statements I can’t help but wonder if he’s really afraid of the NGOs or anything that is beyond his (shallow) worldview? What is he and his peritah hiding from the people? Is he blaming the NGOs – in this case, Bruno Manser and BMF – because the peritah has failed?

Is Afraid Jabu too afraid to admit that it’s the peritah’s fault that the Penan is now so-called “backward”? Has Bruno Manser become the peritah’s bogeyman that spooks the balls out of our politicians?

Instead of blaming Bruno Manser, Afraid Jabu should convince the Penan that he is better than Bruno Manser? How is it possible that the peritah is still being bullied by the specter of a dead Swiss guy, dressed up in loincloth and doesn’t have a gun? If the peritah is not able to win the hearts of the Penan, then why can’t they do a check up and see if there’s anything wrong with its approaches in dealing with the Penan?

Wanton logging destroys the Penans

de0379iLet’s start with the logging activities in the 1980s. If the peritah had thought that is the way how to develop the Penan then think again. What has logging brought to the Penan in the 1980s apart from bringing destruction of their livelihood, diseases, social alienation etc.?

In the 1990s, you have allowed these timber activities to thrive but this time under the disguise of international collaboration for sustainable forestry. Was the Penan receptive to it? No? Why? Oh, oh, was it because Bruno Manser was there to instigate the Penan?

Can one man, dressed in cawat (and probably dead) instigate the Penans in Limbang, Baram and Belaga to fight against these powerful, politically-backed up logging companies? If Bruno Manser is capable of doing all that then the peritah should be ashamed of themselves because they can’t even convince the shy Penans not to be instigated. Oh, why stop with the Penan.

Did Bruno Manser instigate the Iban in Bintulu to erect blockades against the logging companies or the oil palm companies in Suai too?

Blockades a native tool of resistence

All these blaming by Afraid Jabu seem to assume the Penan – and all the other orang asal of Sarawak – are naïve and does not have a real understanding of their political situation. It is as if only the peritah knows what is best for her people. It is as if the people’s blockades and protests are so strange of a concept to them that it must have come from outside. Little did Afraid Jabu know that blockades are just one of those tools of resistance, and don’t tell me that there have been no resistance in this state’s centuries of histories.

I’m not a political scientist but if there is a John Riwang school of thought, I would say the idea of shifting the blame to other parties when you – and your institution – have failed is a conventional political strategy applied by imbeciles. Like Afraid Jabu lah.

Blame shifting to defenseless victims: act of cowardice

Noam Chomsky once said that in order to establish one’s power, it is common to select and attack a defenseless target. By using the media – such as The Borneo Post Online – the target must be characterized as a massive threat and accused of causing disasters. In other words, an act of a coward! This is strange from a person who said “Bruno Manser and the NGOs are nobody in their own country…”

Isn’t it strange? A powerful minister that is afraid of any ‘nobody’. The Hornbill Unleash

DVD arrest: BN’s increasing intolerance ‘worrying’

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 30, 2009 by ckchew

The DAP is furious with Barisan Nasional’s continuous use of the police to trample on political freedoms in the country.

The latest act by the police in arresting the party’s Tebing Tinggi assemblyperson Ong Boon Piow for the distribution of self-made DVDs in Ipoh last night was just another example, said the party’s leaders.

They said that BN was increasingly resorting to use the police to “systematically harass and impede the free exercise of political freedoms”.

In the latest case, Ong was arrested last night at about 10.30pm at the Chin Woo Hall in Ipoh during a film screening organised by Perak DAP.

He was arrested for allegedly violating the Film Censorship Act 2002 for “manufacturing, circulating, distributing, displaying” the ‘Democracy Tree’ DVD without first getting a B certificate from the Film Censorship Board.

He was released on personal bond at 1.10 am this morning and is to report back to the police on April 13.

If he is charged and found guilty, he can be fined between RM5,000 and RM30,000 and/or face a three years’ jail .

“Such exercise and use of the police force to further the hegemonic practices of the BN is to be condemned in the strongest terms by all freedom loving citizens and members of civil polity,” said DAP Youth wing chief and Rasah MP Loke Siew Fook.

Loke also said that the police had failed to provide an answer as to who made the complaint against Ong in the first place.

Increasing intolerance

Party veteran Lim Kit Siang added in to say that this was the latest example of the increasing intolerance towards fundamental liberties in this country.

He said these were ominous signs of increasing repression in Malaysia under incoming Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Just before Ong’s run in with the police, several other DAP leaders and the opposition alliance in general had faced similar “escalation of oppressive state actions”.

They include:

  • Party chairperson Karpal Singh being charged with sedition for saying he would file a suit against the Sultan of Perak.
  • Sedition investigations against the party’s state representative in Johor Dr Boo Cheng Hau over his ‘apartheid’ remark.
  • The one-year suspension of DAP MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo without parliamentary pay and privileges.
  • The three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan.
  • The indiscriminate and high-handed police action against Pakatan Rakyat gatherings and ceramahs. Mkini

Batang Ai By-election: Penans cry foul, threaten to take back NCR land

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 28, 2009 by ckchew

The Penan longhouse community  of Rumah Ugos at Jambatan Suai in Suai, Niah, Miri Division of Sarawak this morning gave notice to senior Dayak state ministers that they will take back their native customary rights (NCR) land which has been developed into an oil palm plantation based on what is called the “

MCPX

Konsep Baru” or New Concept Joint Venture Development Agreement in 1998.

The two state leaders are  Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Rural and Infrastructure Development Alfred Jabu and State Land Development Mnister Dr James Jemut Masing.

Led by their ketua kampung Ugos bin Sugon ,78, and ex-councillor  Jadam anak Eken, 58, they met Kayan lawyer, environmentalist and former Baram Member of Parliament, Harrison Ngau Laing in his office complaining that they have been totally kept in the dark by their joint venture partners, the Ministry of Land Development and Ministry of Rural and Infrastructure Development as to what is going on with the joint venture project.

According to Jadam, the joint venture project involved 2,128 hectares of their NCR land and during the negotiation in 1998, it was agreed that the Penans will have 30 percent shares and the Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) which shall be their trustee will have 10 percent shares and the remaining 60 percent shares will be held by the private investor.

“During the official launching of the JV project in Miri in 2000 by  Jabu, we were paid 10 percent of the value of our 2128 hectares of NCR land valued at RM1,250.00 per hectare. We were also told that the balance will be invested on our behalf in the Amanah Saham Sarawak (Assar) by SLDB,” said  Jadam.

According to Jadam, during the parliamentary election in March 2008, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud handed a cheque for RM500,000.00 through his (Jadam’s) brother  Hasan Sui which was supposed to be their dividends from the JV project.

The right to see statement of accounts

“We have asked how this sum of exactly RM500,000.00, not more and not less of our dividends for our 2,128 hectares of NCR land was calculated or arrived at but no one was able to tell us,” added Jadam.in a statement to Malaysiakini.

Ugos and Jadam also said that they and the other NCR landowners have not seen the statement of accounts of the JV project until today.

“As such, how do we know whether the NCR-JV project has made a profit or not,” said Ugos.

An angry Jadam said: “Being owners of the NCR land involved and shareholders in the project, surely we have the right to ask for and to see the statement of accounts.”

Jadam also complained that the official record on the size of the land of the individual NCR landowners including a copy of the JV agreement on the project have not been given to them.

Some of the NCR landowners have died and without such records, how are their children able to know that their parents have NCR land involved in the JV project.

The duo demanded that “since our JV partners are not prepared to disclose the relevant information on this project, we call upon Jabu and Masing as the Ministers responsible for  this matter to take immediate action failing which we shall take appropriate action to take our NCR land back or shall evict our JV partners therefrom.”
Harrison Ngau said he supported the demands made by the Penans, including their proposal to take back their NCR lands from the JV project or to evict the JV partners from the land.

‘Kick them out in the coming election’

He said: “This is the same sad story of NCR landowners being cheated, we have heard this over and over again throughout Sarawak.  It just confirmed once again the failure, incompetence and the betrayal by the BN leaders especially the so-called Bumiputra or Dayak leaders in the state BN of the poor longhouse folks and Penans who have voted for them in the previous elections.”

“I just hope that our people will remember this repeated and continuous betrayal by the BN leaders and that the people will kick them out in the coming election.”

The well-known Kayan NCR lawyer referred to the recent case of the Ibans of Rumah Ranggong and Rumah Belili in Ulu Niah whose NCR lands was also developed based on the same “Konsep Baru” with SLDB and Bintulu Lumber Development Sdn Bhd through their JV company, Niamas Istimewa Sdn Bhd in 1999.

The deal was abruptly terminated in 2008 or after nine years allegedly on the ground that there was no NCR over the land involved in the said project. In that particular case, the JV project was also officially launched by  Jabu in 2001.

“It is therefore not surprising that the Dayaks in particular have now lost faith and confidence in  Jabu,” Harrison added.

He also mentioned that he and a few other lawyers together with several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be launching a campaign against the proposed 12 dams which the Sarawak government has planned to build in the state. – Tony Thien, Mkini

Batang Ai By-election: Damned dams in Sarawak

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 28, 2009 by ckchew

After timber and land for plantations, the water resources to generate electricity at many of Sarawak’s great rivers are the last opportunity for making mega bucks by crony capitalism in the state of Sarawak.

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Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has recently announced that plans to build 12 more hydroelectric dams in Sarawak will go ahead to meet future industrialisation needs. They will be located at Ulu Air, Metjawa, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Tutoh, Limbang, Baram, Murum, and Linau Rivers. The plan will also see an extension to the Batang Ai Dam. The construction of these dams will push the total generating capacity of Sarawak to 7000 mw by 2020.

The Bakun Dam

I was vehemently opposed to the construction of the Bakun Dam since the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad came to Kuching and launched the project together with the Sarawak CM in the early 1990s. The project was awarded to Ting Pek Kiing’s Ekran Bhd and associates without an open tender. Neither Ting nor his company had any track record of dam building at all.

sarawak energy board slide show hydropower project in sarawak 180608 bakun damThe project became messy. Finally, the project was halted in 1997 due to the Asian Financial Crisis. As a result, the Malaysian government had to take it back from the consortium. According to information divulged in Parliament, RM700 million to RM1.1 billion was paid to Ekran as “compensation”.  (That’s negotiated contracts for you!)

The on-and-off Bakun project is still fumbling forward, with unknown cost overrun.

Meanwhile, the social and environmental disasters that I and many environmentalists had predicted have come to pass in Bakun.  Writing on the subject on the blog The Borneo Project, Harian Thompson and San Hui had the following grim story to report:
“While project logistics continue to be developed, thousands of people resettled for the Bakun Dam continue to suffer at resettlement sites. In 1999, 10,000 indigenous Kenyah and Kayan people were forcibly relocated from their ancestral homes to make way for the dam. Most were forced to move to the government-sponsored Sungai Asap resettlement site, while a few communities moved to other sites or remained on their land.

In the past, the indigenous peoples subsisted in a self-sustainable economy, cultivating land, fishing in rivers and hunting in forests. They occupied 70,000 hectares of ancestral lands. Now, living in poorly constructed longhouses and forced into the cash economy, unemployment and hunger are prevalent.

Compensation for people’s land has reportedly been paid out, but resettlers claim that the amounts were inadequate and below market-value. Problems with food security are rising as cash-poor villagers are unable to grow food on their small plots of mediocre land. As a result, many villagers have resorted to meals of rice and salt. Alienation has led to increased alcoholism and violence. In recent months the population at the resettlement site has since increased 40 percent, further straining meager resources.

The desperate situation for people living at the resettlement site threatens to worsen in the next couple years, particularly as compensation payments run out and the fertility of their small plots of land drops. It is likely that many will be forced to purchase expensive fertilizers to cultivate food to feed their families.

Further problems loom ahead as residents at the resettlement site must pay back government loans for housing construction. A five-year grace period to begin repayment of the $13,700 in debt is set to run out in 2003. At that time, families will owe an average of $80 per month over a 25-year period. The Malaysian government has offered to reduce payments for families who cannot afford to pay; however, they will still be required to pay back the loans with interest.

“There is not much to look forward to these days,” said Junis Win, a Kayan farmer from the Sungai Asap resettlement site. Junis, like many others, is concerned about the future, particularly how he will pay back the housing loan despite the fact that he does not have a stable income.”

Urbanites have little idea of how important land is to the native people of Sarawak. As long as they have their ancestral land, they will always survive in the jungle far away from the cities.

They plant their rice for food self-sufficiency, fish in the river, hunt for wild games in the jungle, and collect or plant vegetables in their backyard.  Since they need to fallow their land after a harvest, they do need a few plots of land to grow rice on rotation year after year.

Left alone, they tend to be happier, healthier, and less stressed out than city folks who have to mortgage their lives for material things.
Plunge them into a small resettled site to make way for the Bakun Dam with inferior housing and push them into cash economy, they soon degenerate into social and financial chaos, going down the path of the Native Americans (“Red Indians”) on their reservations!

Development for whom?

These native Sarawakians who are the original residents of the vast Bakun territory for God-knows-how-long have become the first victims of the Bakun Project. They put paid to the lie touted in the BN slogan of Politics of Development. You have to ask: development for whom?

(The proposed dams on the upper reaches of the great Baram River are particularly worrisome. More than a few Penans would be resettled there. The Penan people’s way of life makes them very vulnerable to drastic change to their surrounding eco-system. I shudder to think of how they are going to survive with dignity at the resettled site!)

At the moment, Sarawak’s total generating capacity stands at 933 mw, which is much more than current demand. So why build 12 more dams? Macro-economic planning aside, that question needs to be answered.

Let us take the proposed RM3 billion Murum Dam for instance. The developer is Sarawak Energy Berhad. This is what the contributor to my communal blog The Hornbill Unleashed Apang had to say in his latest posting:

“What is not announced is that Sarawak Energy Berhad is the sole “developer” but not the actual dam builder. SEB is fully in the hands of Taib Mahmud’s family members.The Chairman is Abdul Hamed Sepawi, a first cousin to the CM, who also heads Ta Ann Holdings Berhad (involved in logging and plantations) and Naim Cendera Holdings Berhad (involved in properties and construction). Brother-in-law and former State Seretary Abdul Aziz is group managing director and chief executive officer of SEB. As Aziz confirmed in the recent Al Jazeera’s interview it sure is an advantage to be well connected to the CM of Sarawak when you do big business in the state.”

On how big money is made through political connection and rent, Apang takes us to the Bengoh Dam: “The Bengoh Water Reservoir Dam, an hour’s drive from Kuching has already begun construction since late 2008. The construction contract was awarded without tender to Naim Cendera for about RM310,650,000 to be exact. The company then sub contracted it out to the dam builder from Mainland China, Sinohydro for RM145 million. Sinohydro is finishing the infamous Bakun Dam. See how easy it is to make big money in Sarawak when you are well connected?

Four Bidayuh villagers with hundreds of years of history and ancestral land must give way for the project. The Sarawak Government is in the process of acquiring NCR lands belonging to other 20 Bidayuh villages in Semadang-Bau areas for this sort of twisted ‘development’.

It seems every time there is a mega development project, the wealth of the elites in Sarawak politics will be vastly developed, while the rural people would lose their land upon which they depend for their survival.”

These are the stories about Sarawak politics that Sarawakians are very familiar with. Children grow up with them, hearing them at the family dinner from a young age. Friends exchange inside information about these deals, over dinner and in private conversations. None of these important bits of information would ever see the light of day in the Sarawak mainstream media.

It used to be the Chinese who were informed and angry over the status quo, and they punished the BN in the last state general election in 2006. On my last trip home, I discovered that many Dayaks and Malays are also getting nauseated.

At my age, I am supposed to have mellowed. Indeed, I have. But whenever I read of minor BN ministers descending on Batang Ai in droves mumbling as if in a dream about their politics of development, dropping Maggie mee from the sky, and dispensing with their petty cash to the voters, I am overcome with a rage at the massive hypocrisy of it all.

If we tell a lie, and we know it is a lie, at least we still know the truth, and that is not so bad at all. But if we live a lie, talk the lie, and eventually believe in the lie as truth, then that is a fate worse than death. I did not say that. Socrates said it in The Republic.

Damn the stupid Dams in Sarawak!

(PS – The roving reporters from Hornbill Unleashed Willie and Chee How will be reporting live at Ground Zero in the morning of nomination day at the nomination centre in Lubok Antu, Batang Ai, on Sunday, March 29, 2009. I thank Malaysiakini for the free advertisement.) Mkini


SIM KWANG YANG was opposition MP for Bandar Kuching in Sarawak between 1982 and 1995. He can be reached at kenyalang578@hotmail.com

Parliament adjourned, lawmakers expect rougher sessions ahead

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 27, 2009 by ckchew

By SK English Team

Parliament has adjourned sine die after a 22-day sitting that was marked by controversy, as the ruling Umno-Barisan Nasional coalition launched a barrage of attacks against Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers.

MP for Bukit Gelugor Karpal Singh was attacked at the entrance to the August House by an angry mob of Umno Youth members, angered by his statement that their party was celaka (damned).

Last week, MP for Puchong Gobind Singh Deo was suspended for a year without pay or privileges for daring to question incoming prime minister Najib Abdul Razak over his involvement in the high-profile murder case of Mongolian translator, Altantuya Shaariibuu.

And a day ago, MP for Ipoh Timur Lim Kit Siang was suspended till 1 pm for asking if Umno was power crazy during a debate on the Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Bill 2009.

“Is Umno crazy? For saying that I was suspended in Parliament. But Hishammuddin Hussein the out-going Umno Youth Leader called Anwar Ibrahim power crazy. And he became a hero,” said Kit Siang in his latest blog posting.

Rougher session ahead

With that unpleasant incident, the first sitting of the second session of the 12th Parliament that began on Feb 16 came to a close on Wednesday. Pakatan lawmakers are expecting a rougher session ahead once Najib formally takes over the premiership.

The Dewan Rakyat passed nine bills including the Supplementary Supply Bill (2008) 2009 and the Supplementary Supply Bill (2009) 2009

Seven other bills were the Witness Protection Bill 2008, Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2009, Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2008, Fees (National Agricultural Training Council) (Validation) Bill 2009.

Also passed were the Continental Shelf (Amendment) Bill 2009, Private Higher Education Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2008. The Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Bill 2009 was also.

The National Services Training (Amendment) Bill 2008 that was scheduled to its second and third reading was brought forward for the next sitting.

However, the reform bill on the police and other enforcement agencies promised by outgoing prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was postponed.

Banglow mewah 10 bilik RM27 juta milik siapa?

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 26, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM , 26 Mac (SK):  Banglow yang dikatakan lebih hebat daripada Mahligai arwah Zakaria Mat Derus yang terletak di Jalan Suasa, Seksyen 7, Shah Alam ini masih dalam pembinaan walaupun negara kita mengalami krisis kewangan.

Kalau nak tahu, mungkin cebisan bajet mini telah terlebih dahulu sampai ke tangan pemilik banglow ini yang dikatakan bahawa tuan empunya hanyalah seorang pegawai Kerajaan Negeri semasa pentadbiran Barisan Nasional di Selangor.

Harganya dikatakan sebanyak RM27 juta, betapa besar dan mewahnya kediaman kepunyaan khabarnya seorang ahli politik Umno yang dulunya bos besar di Selangor namun sejak kerajaan Umno-BN tumbang jadilah ia wakil rakyat biasa.

Yang peliknya, beliau masih boleh meneruskan kerja-kerja menyapkan pembinaan banglow tersebut.

Begitulah kisahnya sebuah rumah yang boleh dikategorikan sebagai mahligai atau lebih sesuai istana yang terletak sergam indah di Shah Alam, ibu negeri Selangor.

Tidaklah pula diketahui pencen ahli politik sebegitu besar sampai mampu membiayai pembinaan rumah yang sebegitu mahal dan canggih, sebab dengar-dengar rumahnya “fully eletronic”.

Tapi setakat maklumat yang dipaparkan dalam laman web kerajaan negeri Pakatan Rakyat selangor, gaji paling tinggi ahli politik Selangor pun ialah gaji Menteri Besar Kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat Khalid Ibrahim sekitar RM47 ribu sebulan campur elaun.

Penulis sebuah blog mendakwa, tempat letak kereta pun dikatakan boleh muat 30 ke 50 buah kenderaan dan rumah pula dikelilingi tembok yang besar seperti Tembok Besar China.

Speaker raps ROS for illegal dissolution of Balkis

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 26, 2009 by ckchew
By Neville Spykerman

SHAH ALAM, March 26 – More questions than answers were raised today during a public inquiry on the Wives of Selangor Elected Representative Charity Organisation (Balkis), which was dissolved by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) on Feb 11 this year.

Selangor Speaker Teng Chang Khim lashed out at the ROS for dissolving the charity based on an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) by members who had no voting rights in March 11 last year.

Selangor ROS officer Tairah Yusof, who continued her testimony before the Selangor Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat), raised the ire of the committee when she admitted that no checks were made on the composition of Balkis members who voted to dissolve the charity.

In her testimony, Tairah said 70 out of the 100 Balkis members had attended the meeting to vote for the dissolution and this surpassed the quorum requirement of 64 members.

However, Teng asked Tairah how these 70 women – most of whom were no longer members as their husbands lost in the elections – could have voted. He said they were, at best, associate members who could not vote, according to their own constitution.

He added that based on records, Selangor had 56 assemblymen, 22 Parliamentarians, five senators and a speaker, so membership could not be more that 84.

“Even a Standard Three pupil will know the membership will not reach 100 and the ROS did not carry out its duties according to the Societies Act.”

Teng added that it’s the ROS that should be dissolved for failing to carry out its responsibilities.

The public inquiry continues tomorrow.

The Malaysian Mystery of ValueCap

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 26, 2009 by ckchew

Are Kuala Lumpur’s rent-seekers raiding the public purse again?

It is Malaysia Inc’s mystery company, a state-owned investment house few seem to want to talk about, much less know about. Rare is the Malaysian who has ever heard of it, knows who comprises its board, the background of its senior management or, indeed, knows much of what it actually does. It doesn’t have a website, and telephone calls to its notional head office go unanswered.

Having any sort of meaningful contact with its elusive executives is near as painful as pulling teeth, as calls, emails and questions go begging, unreturned and unanswered.

When one does actually make contact with the company, which sits at the intersection of Malaysia’s top-level business and politics, its response is one of hostility, to threaten legal action. Even though it is owned by a Malaysian public anxious to know how its money is being handled, its message seems patently clear; stay well away.

Welcome to the secretive world of ValueCap Sdn Bhd, which was forced in late February to extend the maturity date of its US$2.7 billion in bonds for another three years. ValueCap was conceived in 2002 as a Malaysian version of Hong Kong’s Tracker Fund, a powerful device to support the stock market. Three Malaysian government enterprises are behind Valuecap; the main state holding company Khazanah, the state pension trust fund KWAP, and the government’s fund management arm, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB).

But with funds equal to only around 1 percent of the Malaysian stock market capitalisation compared with the HK fund’s $30 billion war chest, ValueCap seems a poor relation to its northern cousin at the very least, and particularly underfunded at such a tremulous time in the world economy.

But after operating under the radar for most of its six-year history, in recent months ValueCap has had an unwelcome spotlight trained on it by Malaysians wanting to know how more about what their government does. Unused to public scrutiny, the company late last year was debated and attacked in a parliament suddenly full of new opposition faces after last March’s elections which, though won by the long ruling Barisan Nasional ruling coalition, saw the government’s invincibility disappear when it lost more than a third of the seats. Now every aspect of government is under scrutiny, and the bureaucrats don’t seem to like it very much. Indeed, it is becoming a particular problem for Prime Minister-designate Najib Tun Razak, who last November took over the finance ministry, the portfolio ultimately responsible for ValueCap.

The gathering controversy at Valuecap stems from recent revelations that it was supposed to make good a RM5.1 bond repayment to its original shareholders by February, returning the money that was seemingly the capital that Valuecap began life with in 2003. Where that gets messy is that the government acknowledged in October that ValueCap would receive a RM5 billion ‘loan’ from Malaysia’s employee provident fund, which has RM330 billion under management. The government insists the EPF loan is unrelated to the delayed ValueCap bond repayment, and assures that ValueCap is viable. After a spirited November debate in Malaysia’s parliament, deputy finance minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop pledged that the RM5 billion EFP loan would not be used to pay off ValueCap’s loans.

As scant information dribbles out about Valuecap, rousing suspicions of a bailout – strenuously denied by the government – Malaysians now want to know more about what’s going on inside this mystery outfit.

But their problem is the government and its state investment agencies seem intent on not saying much at all. ValueCap resolutely refused to make available details of its portfolio, how it is managed, who advises it or even the resume of its chief executive officer, Sharifatu Laila Syed Ali. Nor will either of its 33 percent shareholders – Khazanah, KWAP and PNB – disclose any details about their status in the ValueCap fund or what, if any, returns they have received from their six year investment.

Inquiries to all four institutions directly responsible for ValueCap hit a circular brick wall. Khazanah spokesman Mohamed Asuki bib Abas said “Valuecap has their own management team and Khazanah as a shareholder could not respond to you on their behalf.” Over at PNB, spokesperson Rosli Ismail said that “with regards to the subject matter, we regret to inform that we decline to comment. C’est la vie.” It was the same at KWAP. “Unfortunately we are not in position to comment on Valuecap,” said its spokeperson.

At ValueCap itself, the response was curiously hostile. “We have strict instructions against disclosing pertinent information of the company,” company secretary Husna Hafiza Mohammed said. “We would not hesitate to take any legal action against you …for any misrepresentations made.”

So why all the secrecy? After all, it was Asia’s crippling 1990’s financial crisis that now prompts Malaysia Inc into claiming that it is going out of its way to be a paragon of transparency and corporate governance, operating under so-called ‘world’s best practices.’ Indeed, in a 2005 interview with Euromoney, Khazanah’s managing director Azman Mokhtar boasted of a new era in transparency and openness at Malaysia’s big sovereign wealth fund.

Senior government officials claim there isn’t any secrecy surrounding ValueCap. Deputy Finance Minister Yakcop told parliament that Valuecap “is run by a team of professionals” and pledged the company “would provide adequate information on the company so long as it did not jeopardise its investment strategies. We have nothing to hide,” he said.

But the message seems to be taking its time to seep through to one of Khazanah’s critical offshoots. Indeed, Khazanah’s short official description of ValueCap is about the most revealing information freely available about this reclusive state-owned enterprise.

“Established in 2002, Valuecap is a fund management company which was created to invest specifically in the Malaysia equities market. Owned jointly by Khazanah, PNB and KWAP, Valuecap’s key mandate is to undertake investments in equities listed on Bursa Malaysia on a portfolio basis, based on superior fundamental investment research.”

What is clear is that ValueCap operates at the upper echelons of Malaysia’s political and business life, sometimes one and the same thing. Documents obtained by Asia Sentinel show the ValueCap board in 2007 to be a gathering of senior ethnic Malay businesspeople and directors, some closely connected to leading politicians and with leading government-linked companies such as the power utility Tenaga Nasional and oil giant Petronas.

A document filed to the Malaysian Securities Commission on June 13 confirms that up ValueCap has a ‘non-current liability’ of RM5.1 billion – which seems to be the shareholders’ bond – as against total assets of RM7.6 billion. Revenue for the year was RM1.3 billion, with profits of RM1.1 billion. Around RM1 million of tax seems to have been paid. The filing was for calendar 2007, long before the current market slump. Malaysia’s KLSE composite index more than doubled in that period from 2002-07.

The lack of detailed public information about ValueCap has incensed both Malaysia’s political opposition and its feisty and well-read blogosphere, fast becoming the credible news and information alternative to the traditionally government-controlled mainstream media. Malaysia’s business and political blogs are scathing about the mysterious fund.

“These buggers are running away with our hard-earned money,” said one blogger. “What is the best and most effective ways we can stop them?” Says another “who knows who gains from this outlay of 5 billion ringgit into the share market. Our government has got to be sincerely good for the people at large; and there has to be transparency.”

At the very least, analysts say the government has a serious perception problem to deal with at ValueCap, at a time it can ill afford further controversy.

Opposition politician Tony Pua has made the pursuit of ValueCap a parliamentary bugbear for the government. With his background in business – Pua is a self-made technology tycoon – he has assumed the role of shadow finance spokesperson opposing the government.

“The real rationale behind the sudden RM5 billion loan from EPF to ValueCap is a mega bail-out of Valuecap,” he says. “The government should stop misleading Malaysians with half-truths. My argument is that this is only supporting shareholders and so it is an inappropriate use of our funds. You are treating the symptoms but not curing the disease, which is your recessionary issues, the health of the economy, the drop in production and so on.”

“The intrinsic health of the company is not going to improve just because you have supported the stock price. This injection into the stock market is an unnecessary action.”

Pua says Valuecap began buying stock in 2003 “when there was no crisis so there was no obvious need for it.” He notes that at RM5 billion, or around 1 percent of the notional Malaysian market capitalisation, the fund isn’t big enough to have a significant impact on the wider market, as it was claimed when it was set up. Moreover, he says there are a number of existing state investment vehicles with a similar function to ValueCap, notably the state pension agency, the Employees Provident Fund, which is providing loans to ValueCap.

After searching through random annual reports – because ValueCap won’t reveal its portfolio details – he notes ValueCap has modest investments in a handful of blue chip Malaysia companies, such as Tenaga and Telkom Malaysia.

Pua says ValueCap was launched with the RM5.1 billion from its three shareholders. He says the ValueCap’s performance over its six-year life, based on its 2007 filing, is “not fantastic” alongside the wider market movement in that time, when the index has more than doubled. “It should’ve done much better,” he says.

He wants Najib to withdraw the EPF injection to ValueCap which, he claims, “serves to only deal with the symptoms of global financial crisis and does not in anyway serve to increase Malaysia’s ability to face the challenges brought about by the crisis.”

“When we discovered that they actually had a RM5.1 billion bond due to expire in February, it completely makes a mockery of whatever they had announced previously that this money was to prop up the stock market as part of a stimulus package to improve the economy.”

“If you want to put it crudely, it’s complete lies, it doesn’t make sense. They can’t raise funds from the stock market to repay their bondholders. What is worse, is that it puts at risk the hard-earned retirement savings of ordinary Malaysians.”

Ramon Navaratnam, the president of the Malaysian chapter of Transparency International, berates the scant level of disclosure at ValueCap, pointing out that it has been journalists and bloggers who have determined what ValueCap owns, not the company’s disclosure.

“I can understand if this was a private investor wishing to keep his identity secret,” Navaratnam says. “But this is the government, its our money that is being risked here. Because it is the government as the custodian of the nation, it should have a greater duty of care to fully disclose what it does with our money.”

“They have to change their mindset, or they pay the price” he says. “Is it any wonder the public can perceive the government to be corrupt or full of cronies if this is how its institutions behave. It is a matter of perception.”

The Valuecap controversy has thrown the government onto the defensive at a time when it is under attack on a number of fronts, particularly over the independence of the judiciary and the prevalence of so-called “money politics,” a Malaysian euphemism for political corruption.

Finance Minister Najib has said ‘money politics’ must be stamped out in Malaysia, a call welcomed by many Malaysians tired of a succession of state bailouts of politically influential business interests. They hope he will prove as good as his word when he becomes PM next month. But Najib himself has had some major distractions. He has spent much of the year defending himself from allegations of involvement in the murder of a Mongolian model who had been in a relationship with one of his key advisors.

The 55-year-old Najib, the eldest son of the late Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister after its 1957 independence from Britain, seems set to assume the prime ministership his family regards as a birthright after the current PM Abdullah Badawi announced in October he was stepping down at least two years ahead of schedule.

Critics of ValueCap suggest it may have a deeper role than simply being a share market investor, one that touches at the heart of the Malaysian economy. A cornerstone of Mahathirism was the so-called New Economic Policy, an affirmative action program which advantaged Malaysia’s majority ethnic Malay community over the more business-oriented Chinese and Indian minorities. Always controversial, the NEP has anchored the Malaysian economy for much of the last 30 years and confirmed the primacy of the ethnic Malay, or bumiputera, community in the economy. But now the resurgent opposition has called for an end to the NEP, and even senior government officials, notably Najib, have reluctantly conceded the policy needs “review.”

Transparency International’s Navaratnam believes that as Malaysia evolves into a more accountable democracy, long-standing bumiputera interests will find their control of the economy under threat. He believes ‘bumi’ ownership of the economy to be currently between 30 to 40 percent, about double what the government claims it to be.

“Perhaps this company is a vehicle to help maintain that control for the tougher times to come,” he says. “The thing is, we don’t know, the government isn’t saying and that creates an air of distrust.”

Navaratnam notes the tight historical links each of ValueCap’s shareholders have to the bumiputera community. (State fund manager PNB was founded with the stated aim to “enhance the economic wealth of the Bumiputera community in particular and contribute towards the growth and prosperity of the nation for the benefit of Malaysians.”)

In a column for the highly rated Malaysiakini.com headlined “What’s Valuecap’s Real Role?” opposition politician Syed Husin Ali last year urged the government “to give a complete and comprehensive explanation of the background and the true objective of setting up Valuecap.”

“If it fails to do so, then we have no choice but to conclude that the short-term goal is actually to save certain companies and capitalists and also, perhaps more importantly, to raise funds needed by the Barisan Nasional for the next general election.”

Written by Eric Ellis, Asia Sentinel

Balkis dissolved in February

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 26, 2009 by ckchew
By Neville Spykerman

SHAH ALAM, March 25 – Members of the Special Select Committee for Competancy, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) were visibly shocked today when they found out the Wives of Selangor Elected Representatives Charity Organisation (Balkis) had been dissolved on
Feb 11 this year.

The Selangor Registrar of Society (ROS) officer Tairah Yusoff, who was testifying during a public inquiry into the misuse of state funds by Balkis, informed the committee the charity received special exemptions from the Ministry of Home Affairs to enable the
dissolution.

Selangor Speaker Teng Chang Khim who commented on the timing of the dissolution of the scandal-riddled charity, which took place before the start of the public inquiry.

Tairah said she did not know what exemptions were extended to Balkis adding that the decision to dissolve the charity was made in Putrajaya.However, during intense grilling by the committee Tairah admitted to the fact that the Emergency General Meeting (EGM) held by members to dissolve the charity, on March 11, last year was against Balkis’s own constitution.

The office bearers and other members whose husbands lost in the March 8 general election had ceased to be ordinary members by then.

Teng said they immediately became associate members with no voting rights and the  emergency general meeting, on March 11 was illegal and unconstitutional.

Tairah admitted that her office did not scrutinize the composition of Balkis members who attended the EGM and claimed it was not their responsibility.

She further raised the ire of the committee when she said Balkis accounts for 2007 were audited before the charity was allowed to dissolved.

However, earlier today Balkis auditor Yee Chong Kong told the committee that the accounts for the year was not audited.

Yee said repeated reminders to Balkis officer bearers to submit their accounts for auditing were ignored.

Tairah again admitted that she did not check if the accounts submitted by Balkis were audited by an authorized auditor.

Tairah is scheduled to resume her testimony tomorrow.

Majlis Makan Malam Babitkan Peruntukan Ratusan Ribu Tarik Perhatian Selcat

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM, 23 Mac – Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Mengenai Keupayaan, Kebertanggungjawaban dan Ketelusan (Selcat) hari ini mengadakan pendengaran awam terbuka yang pertamanya.

Selcat yang dipengerusikan Speaker Dewan Undangan Negeri (Dun), Teng Chang Khim memulakan sesi pendengaran berhubung Badan Amal dan Kebajikan Isteri-isteri Wakil Rakyat (Balkis) bermula jam 10.10 pagi tadi.

Selain Teng, lima anggota jawatankuasa itu terdiri daripada Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) Bukit Antarabangsa, Mohamed Azmin Ali, Adun Taman Medan, Haniza Mohamed Talha, Adun Hulu Kelang, Shaari Sungib, Adun Permatang, Sulaiman Abdul Razak, Adun Dusun Tua, Ismail Sani dan Adun Bukit Gasing, Edward Lee.

Dalam sesi pendengaran pagi tadi, Selcat diberitahu yang sebanyak RM450,000 disumbangkan kerajaan negeri melalui pemberian terus (direct grant) kepada Balkis untuk tujuan penganjuran bersama Program Tahunan Isteri-isteri Wakil Rakyat SeMalaysia 2007.

Saksi yang memberi keterangan ialah Setiausaha Kerajaan Negeri Selangor, Dato’ Ramli Mahmud.

Sumbangan itu adalah bagi membiayai tiga majlis makan malam program yang turut dihoskan kerajaan negeri iaitu makan malam majlis perasmian pada 2 Ogos 2007, majlis santapan bersama DYMM Sultan Selangor pada 3 Ogos 2007 dan majlis makan malam perdana pada 4 Ogos 2007.

Makan malam pertama dan kedua berlangsung di Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa manakala yang ketiga berlangsung di Sunway Lagoon Theme Park.

Menurut Ramli, sumbangan yang diberikan kepada Balkis oleh kerajaan negeri itu bukan berbentuk geran tahunan sebaliknya diberikan secara one off iaitu sekali sahaja berdasarkan permohonan sesuatu organisasi.

Katanya, geran tahunan pula hanya diluluskan oleh kerajaan negeri kepada organisasi-organisasi yang diiktiraf dan disediakan peruntukan tahunan seperti geran kepada Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah, Yayasan Seni Selangor, Maksak Selangor, Puspanita Selangor dan lain-lain.

Ketika ditanya Teng sama ada Balkis dianggap sebagai satu badan yang berkaitan dengan kerajaan negeri kerana diberikan  satu geran yang cukup besar, Ramli berkata sumbangan yang diberikan kepada Balkis itu berbentuk one-off dan tidak menggunakan peruntukan beliau sebagai Setiausaha Kerajaan Negeri.

“Kita mendapatkan keputusan daripada Perbendaharaan dan Pegawai Kewangan Negeri meluluskan, ini additional (peruntukan tambahan) daripada kerajaan negeri bukan peruntukan yang diberikan kepada saya untuk diagihkan kepada mana-mana badan yang saya fikirkan layak,” katanya.

Beliau berkata perkara itu telah dibincangkan dalam mesyuarat Ecxo dan kerajaan negeri bersetuju menjadi hos kepada tiga jamuan berkenaan.

“Ini perbelanjaan luar bajet, jadi kita terpaksa dapatkan peruntukan daripada Pegawai Kewangan Negeri,” katanya.

Selcat turut diberitahu menerusi saksi keempat, bekas Pengurus Besar Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS), Dato’ Harun Salim yang anak syarikat kerajaan negeri itu turut menyumbang sebanyak RM161,660 untuk Program Tahunan Isteri-isteri Wakil Rakyat Se-Malaysia itu.

Katanya, Worldwide Holdings Berhad juga memberi sumbangan sebanyak RM147,085 untuk menjayakan program berkenaan.

Ketika ditanya Azmin adakah beliau sedar program itu menelan belanja terlalu besar, Harun berkata beliau tidak menyedari yang kerajaan negeri juga turut menyumbang sebanyak RM450,000.

“Seperti yang saya sebutkan, apa pun keputusan (untuk meluluskan pemberian sumbangan) dibuat oleh jawatankuasa kewangan PKNS,” katanya.

Di samping itu juga, PKNS pernah menawarkan pada 2002, dua bidang tanah yang dikenali sebagai tapak institusi di Seksyen 7, Shah Alam kepada Balkis dengan harga yang telah dipersetujui iaitu sejumlah RM584,552.44.

Jumlah ini akan dibayar bagi pihak Balkis oleh kerajaan negeri Selangor namun demikian pihak PKNS belum menerima sebarang bayaran dan kerajaan negeri memutuskan untuk tidak membayar bagi pihak Balkis.

Selain isu majlis makan malam yang menelan belanja ratusan ribu ringgit, Selcat turut mempersoalkan sumbangan yang dibuat Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB) dengan menaja penerbangan tujuh orang ke China yang difahamkan untuk membeli cenderahati.

Menurut Presiden KDEB, Dato’ Karim Munisar yang menjadi saksi ketiga yang dipanggil hari ini, KDEB telah membelanjakan RM17,438 untuk pembelian tiket penerbangan pada 7 Mei 2007 yang antaranya disertai ahli Balkis termasuk Yang Dipertuanya, Datin Seri Zahrah Kechik.

Turut dipersoalkan pembelian hadiah dan cenderahati bernilai RM206,574.89 yang juga dibiayai KDEB serta coklat yang bernilai RM12,850.

Timbalan Pengurus Besar Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Selangor (PKPS), Mohd Nordin Darhan yang dipanggil sebagai saksi kedua berkata syarikat itu hanya memberi sumbangan dua kali kepada Balkis di antara tahun 2004 hingga 2008.

Jumlah keseluruhan sumbangan berkenaan ialah sebanyak RM46,100 iaitu sumbangan untuk sewa khemah sempena majlis perasmian Kompleks Wawasan Balkis pada 15 Januari 2006 (RM43,600) dan sumbangan hamper buah-buahan pada 19 April 2006 (RM2,470).

Menurut Nordin, pemberian sumbangan hamper buah-buahan seperti yang dimohon Balkis itu antara sebahagian cara mempromosi Selangor Fruit Valley.

Sesi pendengaran awam bersambung esok. – NOOR ALLIA KASSIM

Selcat yang memulakan pendengaran awam terbuka pagi tadi. Saksi yang memberi keterangan ialah Mohd Nordin. Foto AHMAD FADHLI YAHYA

Selcat yang memulakan pendengaran awam terbuka pagi tadi. Saksi yang memberi keterangan ialah Mohd Nordin. Foto AHMAD FADHLI YAHYA

PNSB foot RM338,000 bill for sports event organised by Balkis

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM (March 25, 2009) : More than RM338,000 was spent for a Bakti sporting event hosted by Balkis, the wives of Selangor elected epresentatives charity and welfare organisation, in August 2007, the Selangor State Assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) heard today.

The amount included RM131,000 spent on sporting attire, Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan, chief executive officer of the state-owned Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB), told Selcat which is investigating execesses by Balkis.

Selcat is chaired by Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim while its members are Bukit Antarabangsa state assemblyman Azmin Ali, Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha, Ulu Kelang assemblyman Shaari Sungib, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Edward Lee, Dusun Tua assemblyman Ismail Sani (BN), and Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN).

“The sportswear purchased by PNSB were tracksuits for 400 people and 180 liaison officers and everyone got four pairs,” Khairiyah who was continuing her testimony from yesterday, said.

She said the sportswear was originally provided by the Malaysian Sports Council (MSN) but had failed to meet the criteria set by Balkis.

“MSN should have supplied the sportswear but as they did not meet the Balkis specification, we were directed to buy new ones,” she said.

Khairiyah said only three sports were organised for the games — telematch, bowling and badminton.

“The total amount, RM338,000, looks like (it is for) a big sporting event but only telematches (were played). And if we look at other sporting events, the contingents have to prepare their own sportswear, while here, the organisers are supplying it,” he said.

Teng commented that it was not the norm for organisers to provide the apparel for sporting events.

Khairiyah corrected Teng and said the amount was also for the staff who had helped in the three-day long games.

“They were for the drivers, the police and other staff,” she said, adding that the purchases included packed meals. He then pointed out that in the programme given to them, no telematch was listed

This was countered by Khairiyah, who said that in her schedule, the telematches were listed for Aug 4.

“But our programme does not show this. All it shows on that date is a team-building exercise at Sunway Lagoon Theme Park,” said Teng.

Khairiyah then added that over RM 30,000 was paid by PNSB for three pairs of batik wear for the Sultan of Selangor, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and the wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Jeanne Abdullah, before being asked to testify on a 2007 trip by the wife of former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo, Datin Zahrah Kechik to visit her son in Melbourne.

When asked about the trip, Khairiyah told the committee that she had received instructions directly from Zahrah for PNSB to foot the bill for the trip and to accompany her on the three day visit.

Over RM14, 000 was spent to purchase return business class and economy class tickets sometime in December 2007, she said, adding that the trip was not an official visit.

Khairiyah was then asked by Teng about a Balkis charity visit to Cambodia in 2002, where USD11,000 was listed as being set aside for “contingency” expenses, while the other expenses, including the donations made were listed in Ringgit Malaysia.

Khairiyah replied that the other expenses were also paid in US Dollars, but were not converted in the accounts.

When grilled about a gift of a watch worth almost RM160,000 by PNSB to Khir Toyo, who was then chairman of PNSB, she said it was merely a “token of appreciation” which had been decided unanimously by the board.

“A token is something small, given as a small mark of appreciation. A certificate is a token,” quipped Teng, who asked why the gift was given discreetly, when it was intended as a show of appreciation.

In response, Khairiyah said that Khir had declined the gift, and it had been sold for double the original price.

However, Teng pointed out that the accounts showed that the watch was sold for the same price it was bought.

The inquiry continues tomorrow.

State paid for MB’s wife to visit son in Melbourne

By Neville Spykerman, The Malaysian Insider

Permodalan Negri Selangor Berhad (PNSB) chief executive officer Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan testified before the legislature today that the state subsidiary was ‘instructed” to pick up the cost to Melbourne for the wife of former menteri besar Datin Zahrah Kechik to visit their son who was studying there.

Khairiyah told the Special Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) that she received the instructions directly from Zahrah and was “told” to accompany her on the three day visit, in 2007.

Over RM14,000 was spent to purchase return business class and economy class tickets sometime in December 2007.

Khairiyah says she remembers travelling in business class with Zahrah but could not explain the discrepancies in the invoices for travel which was provided to the committee.

She admitted that the trip was not an official visit and Zahrah used the time to visit her son and to buy souvenirs.

Selangor Speaker Teng Chang Khim, who is heading Selcat’s probe into the now defunct Wives of Selangor Elected Representatives Charity Organization (Balkis), remarked that the trip may have not been official but the cost was.

However Khairiyah said Zahrah paid for the hotel accommodation while in Australia.

The startling revelations could not come at a worse time for Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, who is contesting the Umno Youth chief’s in the party’s general assembly.

PNSB supported Balkis’ ‘repentance programme’ in Cambodia

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM (March 24, 2009) : Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) sponsored part of a “repentance programme” in Cambodia organised by Balkis — the wives of Selangor elected representatives’ charity and welfare organisation — in August 2002, the Selangor State Assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) heard today.

PNSB CEO Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan said PNSB paid RM82,227 for that trip, including more than RM19,000 for library books, RM25,000 for accommodation and transportation for four people, inclusive of RM3,000 allowance for reporters and crew, and RM10,000 for the production of a video clip on Balkis.

Testifying before the Selcat on the second day of a public hearing probing into excesses of Balkis which obtained its funding from the state government and several state owned companies, she said the “repentance programme” involved the repair of a library, purchase of books and cash contributions to orphanages and families living in Muslim villages in Cambodia.

Selcat is chaired by Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim while its members are Bkit Antarabangsa state assemblyman Azmin Ali, Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha, Ulu Kelang assemblyman Shaari Sungib, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Edward Lee, Dusun Tua assemblyman Ismail Sani (BN), and Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN).

Khairiyah: “This was a programme designed to make people repent.”

Teng: Who repented?

Khairiyah: Both sides repented. Because when those who visited the country saw how much of suffering there was, they repented.

Teng: So those who were suffering saw that we were rich, and so they too repented?

Khairiyah then said she reserved her comment on the terminology used as it was one that was coined by Balkis.

Azmin: So, did you notice a change or a tinge of repentance in those who went for the trip?

Khairiyah: That is subjective.

Haniza:”Why did the company agreed to sponsor a programme in Cambodia. Is there a lack of poor in this country that you have to go all the way to Cambodia to help?”

Khairiyah: There were 40 other people on the trip, including Balkis members, non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives, corporate figures and the media.

Balkis president Datin Sri Zaharah Kechik headed the entourage, but PNSB only paid for four of them.

Khairiyah had earlier said that since 2002, PNSB had set aside RM1 million as annual allocation for Balkis every year.

Responding to a question on why PNSB had breached this allocation by giving Balkis RM1.6 million in 2003, she said: “We did not want to say no to a state programme. We have to support state programmes, as a state subsidiary, we are devoted to this.”

She agreed that PNSB supported Balkis because it represented the wives of the elected representatives.

Khairiyah who assumed the post of CEO in 2007 from her previous post of Deputy CEO II (a post she held from 2002) admitted that although in some instances PNSB received formal letters from Balkis requesting for contributions, it was common practice for PNSB to disburse payments upon oral requests.

She also conceded that there were times when no receipts or acknowledgement of receiving the payment was received from the organisation.

Asked if PNSB was a cashier for Balkis as they paid up large and even small amounts for sundry expenses upon request she said: “We have the allocated budget for Balkis (RM1 million annually) so we pay accordingly.”

She admitted negligence in some instances where large expenses like RM53,000 for a mass wedding reception for new converts to Islam were not recorded clearly by the accounts department, and in the process received an earful from Teng.

Teng : “This is the rakyat’s money and here there is no record or detail on how it is spent, do you know the meaning of amanah (trust)”?”

Khairiyah: “It is to manage something to the best of our abilities.”

She also said that PNSB was apolitical when questioned how in 2003 money from the company was used to disbursed Hari Raya hampers to all constituencies in the state except two under the opposition reign during that time.

Khairiyah was also asked to explain how the company could approve the purchase of a RM3,600 Summermen’s suit consisting of a jacket and a pair of pants requested by Balkis for then Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo knowing very well that he and Balkis president Datin Seri Zahrah Kechik were husband and wife.

The suit was presented to Mohd Khir at a Chinese New Year event organised by Balkis in 2004.

Khairiyah had earlier disclosed that she was quite close to Zahrah.

Azmin: “Don’t you know that the general orders for civil servants states that they are not allowed to receive gifts worth more than RM1,000.”

Khairiyah: “I am not aware of this, I was just asked to purchase the item for Balkis, and at that time I was just the implementor.”

Khairiyah was also grilled about a Balkis “humanitarian” and “financial support” programme in Bukit Tinggi in Indonesia which objective was ostensibly to “learn about the lifestyle and the Malay archipelago in Indonesia”.

Haniza: “What was the RM16,000 PNSB contributed for? Was there a calamity for

humanitarian funds to be paid out?”

Khairiyah: The RM16,000 was to pay for a RM5,000 dinner for 50 pax, a RM5,000 lunch for 50 pax while the remaining RM11,000 was for contingency.

She said she had also gone on that trip with 49 other people and added that the trip was headed by Zahrah.

Khairiyah was also questioned about a RM13,000 payment for food and entertainment which PNSB paid for a charity concert dubbed “Malam Seroja” organised by Balkis. She said the RM13,000 was paid to Abdul Malik Kechik the caterer for the event who also arranged for the singer.

The hearing continues tomorrow with Khairiyah scheduled to explain RM33,000 in expenditure for sports attire that PNSB purchased for Balkis members and delegations to a sports event put together by the organisation. The Sun

The new role of the SPR

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

MARCH 24 – Heard about the new role being played by the SPR in Selangor?

They have now become part of  a committee formed under the PM’s Department responsible for the implementation of a program called ‘people centric’.

This programme has, as its objective, the upliftment of BN’s image in the eyes of the public and the battering of the image of the PR.

This is then to lead to the defeat of the PR government in Selangor in the next General Election. The activities which are being planned in relation to this program is to be financed by Federal funds!

If this does not constitute misuse of public funds, I do not know what does!

When the Minister in charge of the ICU (Implementation Coordination Unit) under the PMs department, being the unit responsible for the implementation of this programme, was queried about the matter in the Parliament, he refused to respond. He neither denied nor acknowledged the allegation nor was he the least embarrassed about its disclosure.

In fact, there were those from the BN who even responded by asking, “What is wrong with it?”

When such blatant misuse of power happens and is then defended, one wonders if the BN members of Parliament have any understanding what a Democracy is all about. It would come as no surprise if the answer to that question is a straight forward ‘no’.

They have no understanding nor any respect for the system and will be willing to stifle or cripple the system in order for them to survive.

In the Dewan Undangan Negeri Selangor, I was told, a BN ADUN responded by saying, “What’s the problem? You have been surpressed all this while before and you still won.

So, surely now, while in power, you can face this challenge with no problems”. Talk about dumb.

There were other BN MPs who simply asked out loud, “where did you get that document? Pass it to me. You should be charged under the OSA!” Yes, the OSA. Another act to protect and cover their misuse of power.

The SPR being the independent Commission responsible for a fair election cannot be a party to such a program.

The fact that it sits in the committee which works for the down fall of the PR government in Selangor only adds legitimacy to the fear that the next General Election will be the most crooked in Malaysian history. As if it was not bad enough already!

This means that there will be no short cuts to victory next time around. In 2008 the BN was complacent. They never realised the mood of the rakyat and they allowed for a semi-tainted election process.

This time around they are completely aware of their poor chances and the need for a completely tainted election process. Nothing short of an over whelming support from the rakyat will nullify and neutralise the dirty tactics which they will have in store for us.

That is why we have to work hard. Harder than ever before. Harder than when we were in the opposition. As the cards are stacked against us and the dices doctored,

I estimate that nothing less than a clear 60 per cent voter support will be able to see us through this time around.

The BN will have at least a 10 per cent advantage from the word go.

An advantage due to the phantom voters or ‘pengundi hantu’ who will be registered as legitimate voters, compliments of the SPR.

A fitting strategy for a dying political entity. MI

Ghost of Altantuya: A power transition tainted by fear, suppression and corruption

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

Wong Choon Mei

Malaysia’s ruling party, Umno, will begin its much-awaited annual congress and election today amid controversy and rising fears that a power transition pact knocked together behind closed doors will herald a dark period for both it and the nation.

As some 2,500 delegates from across the country prepare to vote in top office-bearers, deputy prime minister Najib Abdul Razak is working round the clock to ensure that his ’shining’ moment does really arrive.

He is due to be formalised as party president without having to contest the post. But political watchers point out that the lack of challenge does not signify wholesale support for the 55-year old, but rather, it follows an internal rebellion that forced his boss, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to relinquish power without putting up any fight.

“None of us had any role or say in the choice of the person who will lead Malaysia next. We were mere bystanders in a political chess game,” said former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim.

“Najib’s administration will have more steel than Abdullah. There are indications that he is more willing to use the public institutions, controversial laws and coercive forces to get what he wants,” said political analyst Gavin Khoo Kay Peng.

“He has his own corporate cronies. His brothers are prominent businessmen. If he continues to disregard the rule of law, the losers are Malaysians, the normal people.”

Sowing seeds of division in own party and community

By convention – not by law – the Umno president becomes the prime minister of the country. And as the day approaches for Najib to assume the top seat, he has cracked down severely, not only on Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition, but also against members of his own ruling elite.

Last week, Najib moved to purge Abdullah loyalists from taking top party positions. Malacca chief minister Mohd Ali Rustam and Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin were found guilty of vote buying.

Front-runner for the deputy president’s post Ali Rustam was disqualified at the eleventh hour, while Khairy’s chances of pipping Mukhriz Mahathir – the son of Najib’s mentor Mahathir Mohamad – took a dive after he was issued a warning letter.

Umno members were initially outraged, especially since the popular Ali Rustam was also ridiculed for his lack of fluency in English – a factor that Najib’s supporters openly said would make him an unsuitable No 2 to their British-educated No 1.

It now remains to be seen if members will throw their support behind another Abdullah loyalist, Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who is the only candidate left in the contest for the deputy presidency against Muhyiddin Yassin, the Trade Minister favoured by Najib.

“This is clearly an insult to the Malay language. While we recognise the importance of English and the need for leaders to be fluent in it, at the same time, linguistic skills are not the sole criteria for choosing the best leaders,” said Shamsul Iskandar Akin, a Malay rights activist and Pakatan Rakyat leader.

Fanning racial sentiments

Realising that they may have offended grassroot members with their elitist stance, Mahathir changed tack suddenly. If in the past weeks, Najib and his camp held out the promise of a more inclusive and progressive Umno, over the weekend their clarion call took on a strident Umno-for-only-the-Malays note.

Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein, who apologised last year for a keris-unsheathing ceremony that symbolised Malay supremacy, announced on Saturday that he intended to reprise the ritual this week.

Mahathir himself warned that Malays were under threat more than ever before, and may lose their privileges if they did not support leaders like himself and his protege. He also took a shot at Chinese educationist and accused of being apartheid in not wanting to accept English as a medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science in vernacular schools.

The 84-year old ex-premier however neglected to mention that Malay educationists too want both subjects to be taught in their own mother tongue. His comments sparked a blaze of anger from the Chinese community, forcing a reaction from the Umno-led Barisan Nasional component, the MCA.

“If the Chinese educationists do not like to mingle with the Malay community, I would like to inform him that almost 90 per cent of the students that finish their primary school at Chinese vernacular schools enrol into national secondary schools,” chided Wee Ka Siong, deputy education minister.

Growing nervousness and insecurity

Despite an onslaught of rosy news reports from the Umno-controlled media and the barrage of half-truths shot out by the Najib-Mahathir camp, it is obvious that there is still fear of rejection from both outside and within their own party.

Just a day ago, opposition newspapers Suara KeADILan and Harakah were banned with immediate effect for three months. No reasons were given.

Late last night, police fired round after round of tear gas and chemical-laced water at a peaceful crowd of more than 5,000 that turned up to hear Anwar speak at a political lecture in Bukit Selambau, Kedah.

Again, no explain was given for the unnecessary action, adding to already swirling rumours that the charismatic reform icon will soon be arrested as an increasingly nervous Najib suppresses dissent to tighten his hold on the country.

“The latest suppression underscores the insecurity and fear that Najib and his supporters feel about their political situation,” said Tian Chua, information chief of KeADILan.

“There are many major events around the corner – the Umno election, the power transition, the triple by-elections and the Perak crisis. He must be afraid of losing, of being further exposed, or there might be some exclusive revelations coming up that he would be hard-pressed to deny.”

Suara Keadilan to defy suspension order

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by ckchew

PKR will continue publishing its newsletter

MCPX

Suara Keadilan in defiance of the three-month suspension imposed by the Home Ministry.

“We will resume our usual operations without a permit,” said PKR Information Chief Tian Chua, when contacted.

“There can be no action by the Home Ministry harsher than the suspension of our party organ.”

When pressed on the exact cause of the suspension, Chua said he could not think of a reasonable explanation.

However, he said he suspects that the authorities are attempting to restrict space for expression against the backdrop of the Umno elections this week, three by-elections on April 7, and the upcoming transfer of power to deputy premier Najib Abdul Razak.

Chua also remarked that the suspension of Suara Keadilan and PAS party organ Harakah could be “starting points” in further restriction of freedom of expression, citing the charging of Internet users for allegedly seditious comments against the Perak sultan as an example.

PAS leaders have yet to respond on the suspension of Harakah.

However, Harakah head Mustafa Ali (left) said the editorial board will meet on Thursday to discuss the suspension.

“I hope that our PAS colleagues in the Parliament will bring up the matter with the Home Minister and seek an explanation,” he said.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar was quoted in media reports today as saying the ministry was displeased with “wrong, sensational and sensitive contents” in the two publications.

He added that the ministry is strict about news that confuses the public and incites anger.

Both publications have routinely been targeted for various forms of government action in the past.

Meanwhile PKR and PAS leaders will be submitting a memorandum to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) tomorrow to protest against the suspension of the two publications.

The delegation will be led by Chua and PAS Information Chief Mahfuz Omar. The youth wing leaders of both the parties are also expected to be present.

A gathering to protest the suspension is also expected to take place at Suhakam at 2pm tomorrow.

‘Unseemly haste’

The suspension of the two publications was criticised by the Centre for Independent Journalism and Writers Alliance for Media Independence.

In a joint press statement, they called for the suspension to be lifted immediately and for repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

They reiterated their call for the setting up of a parliamentary Select Committee on Media Freedom.

The two groups described the suspension as “the government’s latest assault on constitutionally-enshrined freedom of expression”.

They further condemned the “unseemly and unusual haste in suspending the publications”, indicating that this could be linked to the government’s unease over a controversial handover of power and apprehension over the three looming by-elections.

“Publications are usually given a ‘show cause’ latter prior to action being taken,” they said.

Their statement further condemned the use of tear gas against 1,000 people who had gathered last night to hear a ceramah (political talk) by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in Bukit Selambau, Kedah.

They urged an open investigation into police conduct and for freedom of assembly to be upheld.

‘No respect for people’

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } The ministry’s decision to suspend the two party newspapers also invoked the anger of former minister Zaid Ibrahim, reports K Pragalath.

“There is no respect for people who voted for opposition. No respect for democracy and law. It looks bad internationally,” he told reporters at a book launch event in Kuala Lumpur today.

“They (the government) talk about being first world but behave like the third world.

“Which country in Asia has so much control over the press? Practically all BN parties own the newspapers. Is that not enough?” he asked. Mkini

Our God-given right of freedom of speech

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 24, 2009 by ckchew

But those who walked in the corridors of power resented Jesus and would allow him freedom of speech. So they plotted to kill Jesus so that they could silence him. Freedom of speech was regarded as dangerous because the rakyat might start believing all those ‘lies’ from Jesus.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

According to Selangor State EXCO member, Dr Xavier Jayakumar, 40 people were arrested in a ceramah in Taman Ria in Sungai Petani, Kedah. Dr Xavier said that the police, who fired water cannons and teargas into the crowd that included women and children, did not issue the mandatory warning beforehand.

Children coming out of a nearby tuition centre were also doused by the spray from the water cannon, as were the patrons in a nearby Chinese restaurant. Even the traders selling memorabilia and souvenirs were not spared the heavy-handedness of police who screamed like wailing banshees to expect ‘more aggressive action’ as they chased the people away.

Meanwhile, two opposition newspapers, Suara Keadilan and Harakah, have been suspended for three months – meaning, basically, that they can’t report about any problems in the ongoing Umno general assembly or play a role in the three by-elections early next month.

Former de facto Law Minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, has hit out at the suspension of these two opposition party publications and said that Malaysians should denounce attempts to silence opposing voices, reported The Malaysian Insider.

Zaid said that he was not surprised by the suspension of the opposition party owned newspapers and added that the only way to prevent more such attempts was if more people would stand up and criticise the move.

“We’re all vulnerable,” he said. “Those who think they are safe are mistaken. No matter how much you try to play safe, you are never safe. If more and more people stand up, then the people in power will probably think twice.”

The government did not give an explanation for suspending the two opposition newspapers yesterday. However, it is widely perceived as a move to stifle the reach of opposition parties and bolster the chances of the ruling party in three critical by-elections next month.

In another move that is seen as an attempt to tighten its grip on the media landscape, Umno, the party that forms the backbone of the Barisan Nasional government, also barred six Internet-based media from covering its annual general assembly this week.

Further to that, Gobind Singh Deo has been suspended from Parliament for one year, with his salary and all privileges suspended as well during that same period. His father, Karpal Singh, faces sedition charges, to add to the many cases of sedition, criminal defamation, illegal assembly, and whatnot, that hundreds of others who are perceived as threats to Umno also face.

All this reminds me of Nazi Germany during the time of Adolf Hitler when the ‘black shirts’ were practically running the country at the point of the gun. That was more than 70 years ago. But nothing has changed much over 70 years as far as Malaysia is concerned. Time has almost stood still in Malaysia.

Malaysia too has its ‘black shirts’ a la Nazi Germany and these people are from Pekida. Pekida, a sort of militia, was formed soon after ‘May 13’ and is supposed to be the spearhead of the next race riots, if Malaysia ever does see another one. From the looks of things, though, Umno is bent on ensuring that there is.

In case you do not know, Pekida is promoting a ‘Say YES to ISA’ campaign. They want the Internal Security Act to be retained so that ‘Malay rights and privileges’ can be protected. And how would the ISA help protect ‘Malay rights and privileges’? Easy. All those who question ‘Malay rights and privileges’ can be detained without trial and sent to Kamunting where they can be silenced and will not be able to speak any longer.

In short, the ISA can stifle free speech and silence dissent. That, basically, is what the Umno-Pekida militia are saying. And that is Umno’s game plan. Now can you see why all these happenings have been going on the last few weeks? They want Malaysians to shut up and not complain so much.

Hey, I did not say Malaysia does not allow freedom of speech. Of course we have freedom of speech in Malaysia. It is freedom after speech that we don’t have. And this is what my grouse is all about.

God has allowed freedom of speech. In fact, God not only allowed freedom of speech. God has made it mandatory. And all those who oppose freedom of speech are going against God’s wishes. So they are God’s enemies. And enemies of God are my enemies as well. And their blood, therefore, becomes Halal, to quote what many Muslim scholars say.

Hey, I am not saying this. Muslim scholars are saying this. And I was told by the ustaz in Kamunting during my ISA detention that I must listen to the religious scholars. This is what the ustaz in Kamunting told me and they sent me to Kamunting so that I can listen to the ustaz and become rehabilitated.

So this is the newly rehabilitated Raja Petra Kamarudin speaking. I speak the words of the religious scholars who rehabilitated me in Kamunting. Those who oppose God are enemies of God and their blood is Halal, said the ustaz who were responsible for my rehabilitation. And those who stifle freedom of speech are enemies of God. So their blood is Halal.

The People of the Book believe in the story of Moses (Musa) and how God commanded him to go meet the Pharaoh and deliver God’s message to him. The message was simple. Moses was asked to abandon his evil and misguided ways and to allow his citizens the freedom to practice their religion as outlined by God.

But the Pharaoh would not listen. He was stubborn, just like Umno, because he thought that he was God and that Moses’ God was bullshit, just how the Umno people today think. God then commanded Moses and his people to leave the country so that they could be free to speak and free to practice their beliefs.

But the Pharaoh would not allow them to leave and he tried to stop them. So God drowned him in the Red sea just like how Umno was drowned in the Indian Ocean during the Permatang Pauh by-election and in the South China Sea during the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Hey, I am just relating history and about what the People of the Book believe. I did not create all these stories. These things happened long before I started writing and I am just relating what happened 3,500 years ago in Egypt when I was still a very small boy.

Then, 1,500 years later, another man came along, according to the belief of the People of the Book. And this man was named Jesus (Isa). And God commanded Jesus to sort out those who walked in the corridors of power at that time. These people were all corrupt, cruel, oppressed the rakyat, discriminated against those less fortunate than them who happened to have come into this world through the ‘right’ pussy and were therefore the Bumiputeras of that era, and whatnot.

But those who walked in the corridors of power resented Jesus and would allow him freedom of speech. So they plotted to kill Jesus so that they could silence him. Freedom of speech was regarded as dangerous because the rakyat might start believing all those ‘lies’ from Jesus. This would mean the government would be in trouble if the rakyat started believing Jesus instead of believing those who walk in the corridors of power.

But what these people did not know is that Jesus spoke the word of God and they also did not know that God wanted Jesus to speak so that the truth can emerge and the corrupted government of the day could be exposed for what it is, a bullshit government, just like the Umno government of today. And God proved that those who stood on the side of truth would prevail while the bullshit government will eventually crumble to dust and will be blown by the wind to disappear into the desert, like what will happen to Umno in the not too distant future.

Then, about 600 years later, another man came along who faced the same problems as faced by Moses and Jesus. And this man, whom Time magazine labelled as the most influential man in history, was named Muhammad. And that is why many Malays like to name their sons Muhammad, because he was the most influential man in history.

Some even have two Muhammads in their name because their parents thought the more Muhammads they have in their name the more influential they will grow up to become. Sometimes, however, the more Muhammads they have in their name, the more corrupt they become. In fact, many Malays with two Muhammads in their name have become more like the Pharaoh than like the Prophet. Furthermore, people with names like Isa (Jesus) or Musa (Moses) are the biggest crooks in Malaysia.

Eventually, they plotted to kill Muhammad, like how they did to Jesus and Moses before that. This was because Muhammad, like Jesus and Moses before that, believed in freedom of speech and that an oppressive and corrupt government should be toppled. So the oppressive and corrupt government tried to silence them just to protect their interest.

This happened 3,500, 2,000 and 1,400 years ago. Thousands of years ago, the corrupt governments of that time also tried to stifle freedom of speech in an effort to ensure that the truth does not surface. And the People of the Book believe that all these people are enemies of God and that their blood is Halal. These are enemies of the truth, who are therefore also enemies of God, and they should not be allowed to live. They must die. And it is the rakyat’s duty to kill them, like how God did thousands of years ago to those who stifled freedom of speech and would not allow the truth to surface.

bn’s deep insecurity: hisham bars Pakatan leaders from schools

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 24, 2009 by ckchew

Selangor’s elected leaders from Pakatan Rakyat are barred from visiting government schools in the state, according to a directive issued by Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

In an education department list on who can attend official events in all schools in the state, Pakatan Rakyat leaders names are glaringly missing.

The education department letter’s list was issued to all school headmasters in Selangor earlier this month. [letter below]

The letter from the district education department instead stated that the education minister has appointed 73 Umno, MCA, MIC and Gerakan leaders who were sanctioned to attend official events in the state’s schools.

“Only these officials named in the attached list are allowed to attend official functions in the government schools in the state,” the letter dated March 11, 2009 stated.

Previously, all school heads were verbally told not invite Pakatan leaders for any official functions in schools.

thiruvenggadam selangor state schools directive from educative minister 240309 02In the recent parliamentary sitting, a government official denied that there was any directive barring elected leaders of the Pakatan state governments, said Petaling Jaya City councillor A Thiruvenggadam, who gave a copy of the letter to Malaysiakini.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said the letter was a failure on the part of the federal government to distinguish what is right and wrong.

“Such a letter further leads to the abuse of power, propagating corruption and thus this rots the entire system. This is an unacceptable discrimination against people who elected the Selangor state leaders,” he said.

BN’s deep insecurity

On Sunday, Thiruvenggadam, who is also the PKR PJ Selatan division vice-president, said that he had followed Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim to the Highlands Tamil school in Klang.

Addressing the Parents Teachers Association and teachers, Khalid donated a cheque amounting to RM120,000 and promised that he would get the Highlands developer to donate a fund for an additional classroom.

selangor state government allocation fund to tamil schools 251108 05“Several schools in Selangor, including Tamil schools are in bad shape and in dire need of the state government’s help.

“As a local councillor, I am often approached by the PTA and school headmasters to help them out with problems related to the deteriorating school’s facilities.

“Now, the school officials have apologetically told me that they will not be able to invite me to their official functions. I do not mind helping the schools even if I am not invited because my motive is to serve the schools in need of repair.”

Meanwhile, PKR vice-president R Sivarasa said the letter exposed the deep insecurity of the Barisan Nasional government and how it continues to politicise the education system.

However, Sivarasa who is also the MP for Subang, said the truth was finally out and the people will not be able to accept such double standards practiced by the federal government. Mkini

Balkis received huge cash payments from Selangor government

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 24, 2009 by ckchew
By Neville Spykerman.

SHAH ALAM, March 24 — Paid trips to Cambodia and Indonesia, cash payments, a mass wedding for converts, and expensive gifts for VIPs, all in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), dominated day two of a public inquiry into the Wives of Selangor Elected Representatives Charity Organisation (Balkis).

Today, it was the turn of Permodalan Negri Selangor Berhad (PNSB) chief executive officer Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan to be “grilled” by the Selangor Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat), over funds which was provided to Balkis since 2002.

Khairiyah, who was accompanied by four aides, disclosed that it was a common practice for the state subsidiary to adhere to all “request” for funds from Balkis, which amounted to between almost RM500,000 to RM1.6 million, annually.

Khairiyah told the committee headed by Selangor speaker Teng Chang Khim that as a state subsidiary it adopted a “compromising attitude” as they wanted to support the state in all projects which improved the

image of the administration.

Khairiyah, who was deputy CEO in 2002, disclosed that it was “usual practice” for Balkis officials to make verbal requests for project funds, and it was not unusual for the payments to be made in cash.

During the inquiry she said the “instructions” were sometimes made over the phone but she later retracted and used the term ‘request’ instead which prompted Teng to remind her that she was testifying under oath.

She admitted she had a close relationship with former Balkis president Datin Zahrah Kechik, who is the wife of former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khir Toyo,and added there was no committee to scrutinise the

“request” for funds or how the money was used.

Khairiyah said all requests were approved by the PNSB board collectively.

In 2002, PNSB funded a journey of repentance and self-realisation (Keinsafan) for Balkis members. A total of RM82,000 was paid and the money was used to food, accommodation and humanitarian projects as well as an allowance of RM3,000 for a reporter.

Khairiyah said RM38,000 was dispensed in cash and PNSB did not receive a receipt for the money.

In the same year, Balkis also received RM250,000 of which RM100,000 was in cash, to run a motivational camp for SPM students.

Khairiyah said she is not sure what the cash was used for and did not know who ran the course or why the money needed to be paid in cash.

In 2003, PNSB allocated RM1.65 million to Balkis of which RM148,280 was used to fund a mass wedding of 51 couples who were new converts at Dewan Belia and Sukan in Shah Alam.

Almost RM90,000 was spent on food for the estimated 1,500 guests at the wedding and Khairiah admitted there was no proper documentation on how the rest of the money was spent.

“It is negligence and carelessness on our part,” she admitted.

Khairiyah was at a loss to explained why huge amounts of cash was being dispensed to Balkis over the year and who received the money.

In 2004, PNSB paid RM3,600 for a “Summermen” suit for its then chairman Dr Mohd Khir Toyo as a souvenir for attending a Chinese New Year function, contrary to General Orders that gifts should not cost more than RM1,000 .

In the same year PNSB paid RM16,000 for Balkis members to go on a trip to Bukit Tinggi, Indonesia.

Meanwhile in 2006, PNSB paid RM50,000, in cash, for the opening of Complex Wawasan Balkis in Shah Alam,  RM13,000 for food and a singer for a Buka Puasa dinner and RM25,000 for several tables at a

Balkis charity dinner.

In 2007, PNSB paid RM338,547.97 for the Balkis annual sports event of which RM33,000 was used to buy uniforms for participants.

Teng remarked that PNSB had functioned like a cashier to Balkis and added the Select Committee was concerned with the lack of corporate governance by the state subsidiary.

The inquiry continues tomorrow. MI

RM2 billion and counting

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 24, 2009 by ckchew

THE invite was supposedly exclusively to theSun but when I got to the Drainage and Irrigation Department’s SMART control centre in Jalan Ampang last Wednesday, a coterie of colleagues from the other press were also on hand for a briefing on the operations of the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel project.

“We are sorry about this,” said one of the corporate communications officers explaining that someone higher up the pecking order decided to invite everyone else.

“It’s okay,” I replied, saying there was no need to split hairs when what was imperative was that a government department is reacting positively to media criticisms of the mega project that cost taxpayers RM2 billion.

I was then escorted to a seat next to DID deputy director general (operations) Datuk K.J. Abraham, who seemed genuinely pleased to see me. “We set this up especially for you following your column,” he said, alluding to the March 6 article that questioned if the people had been misled into forking out big bucks for the stormwater project when flash floods were still plaguing the city.

Abraham along with officials from DID – SMART chief engineer Low Koon Sing, DID Federal Territory director Hashim Osman and Kuala Lumpur flood mitigation (KLFM) project engineer Lau Chuan Teng – took pains to explain the system to the media and field questions.

While one lauds the pro-activeness of Abraham and his officers in wanting to be transparent and accountable when dealing with public perception, unfortunately the rest of us from the media were left wanting.

This is because everyone agrees with the virtues of the tunnel, especially knowing now that it was meant to only solve half of KL’s flood woes. So any technical briefing and site visit would not answer the following queries:

» Was it a marketing gimmick when the people were told that the tunnel would end KL’s flash floods once and for all?

» Was the public misled as we were not told that taxpayers would have to fork out another RM528 million for the KLFM which would complement the tunnel to truly make the city flood-free?

» Was it a mere puff when the tunnel was sold to the public by the then administrators that traffic would be easily dispersed during floods when the March 3 floods saw a major traffic snarl in the tunnel?

» Why is Gamuda-MMC given a 40-year concession to collect toll when its investment is only RM600 million for work on 3km of the 13km project, with the balance funded by the government?

» Why was PECD Construction Sdn Bhd (formerly known as Peremba Construction) awarded the KLFM project via direct negotiations in 2003?

» What sort of penalties would be imposed on PECD for delaying the delivery of the KLFM? The project was due to be completed in 2007 but was pushed to end of 2008. Now it has been delayed yet again due to the company’s financial problems and the DID has to source for a rescue contractor.

» What was the criteria in awarding PECD (then Peremba) the job? Was due diligence done on this company or was the contract awarded based on the familiar means of doing business in Malaysia – who you know not what you know?

Abraham and even the people operating SMART are in no position to answer these questions. It would have helped if the likes of the Economic Planning Unit, the Finance Ministry, the Works Ministry and some of those from the previous administration could shed light on these pertinent issues.

But fortunately for them, they are enjoying their retirement having made the mess and confused the people; and have left it to the likes of the DID to do the damage control and answer the public.

What is almost certain is now that a rescue contractor has to finish the job, taxpayers will have to fork out more money during these troubled economic times to finance the project, although Abraham reasoned that awarding the 96%-completed project to a new main contractor would mean digging deeper into the kitty. So will this be another lesson learnt or one that we will soon forget? Will those entrusted with the public’s money continue with their callous ways? Will patronage continue to be a primary force in awarding projects funded by people’s money? Will for once the welfare of the people – in this case KL folk – be of paramount interest?

The verdict is still out on this one but hopefully the incoming administration will not only continue but enhance the initiatives taken by the outgoing one in promoting accountability, transparency and merit in the procurement process. And this would also mean making those responsible for creating a mess answer to the people and not hide behind the coat-tails of government servants. The Sun

Terence is not convinced that we were told everything that needs to be said to justify the tunnel’s construction, although he acknowledges that it has reduced the city’s flood problems. He accepts the invitation from SMART for a tour of the facility. He is deputy editor (special reports & investigations). Feedback: terence@thesundaily.com

KDEB paid for flight tickets of Balkis members to go souvenier shopping

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 24, 2009 by ckchew

SHAH ALAM (March 23, 2009) : Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (KDEB) paid for the flight tickets of seven members of the now defunct Selangor assemblymen and MPs wives charity organisation (Balkis) for a “souvenier shopping” trip to Guangzhou, China on May 2007.

The cost of flight tickets for one business class and six economy class seats was RM17,438, KDEB head Datuk Abdul Karim Munisar told the Select Committee on Competance, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) of the Selangor State Assembly on the first day of its probe into contributions disbursed to Balkis.

Abdul Karim said the company paid more than RM206,000 for the souvenirs from China which included a few hundred stalks of artificial flowers in various colours and 2,700 hats – 900 in red, yellow and purple colours respectively.

This was despite the fact that the invoice indicates that the supplier has a local branch based in Kuala Lumpur. The entire cost was absorbed by KDEB which is a state investment arm under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.

Abdul Karim added that KDEB had spent a total RM65,300 to buy Songket material to be given as gifts to the Sultan, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali at a function hosted by Balkis in February 2006 and about RM25,000 for souvenir chocolates.

The company also paid RM100,000 for dinner organised by Balkis at the Sunway Lagoon Resort and Spa Hotel on July 24, 2007. This was a week before the association co-hosted three dinners costing RM450,000.

The first two dinners on Aug 2 and 3 were held at the same venue and the third on Aug 4 was held at the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park hotel. The cost was borne by the state government with the approval of the financial officer and endorsement of the executive council (exco).
Grilled by the Selcat which is chaired by Selangor state assembly speaker Teng Chang Khim on Monday over these payments KDEB made under its CSR programme president Karim Munisar said: “We do not question the relevance of this as it was determined by the previous state government, and there are no criteria or guidelines. Now KDEB is under a new government and if they change the policy and stipulate guidelines pertaining CSR programmes, then we will adhere to it.”

Karim was one of the four witnesses who testified before the seven member Selcat panel made up of five Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen and two Barisan Nasional representatives.

The other Selcat members are Bkit Antarabangsa state assemblyman Azmin Ali, Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha, Ulu Kelang assemblyman Shaari Sungib, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Edward Lee, Dusun Tua assemblyman Ismail Sani (BN), and Permatang assemblyman Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN).

He said if the president approves the appeal for funding from organisations like Balkis then the board would have to endorse it.

Asked what would happen if he had not approved it, Karim replied: “Susah lah! (that’s hard)”.

Several state company representatives and their subsidiaries also admitted that they were obliged to pay for the cost incurred by Balkis saying it was a practice which they did not question.
The heads and former managers of the companies said that although they agreed to pay for expenditures, the approvals were based on estimates.

The final cost would be paid to suppliers based on based on bills that Balkis forwarded to the companies.

Earlier during the morning session, state secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud said the CSR guidelines for state companies are determined by the companies themselves and that there was no fixed guideline.

“It is for the CEOs to decide on based on their budget allocations,” he said.

Ramli also denied that where the state was concerned there was no special treatment for Balkis as the organisation had to write in to ask for  financial assistance if they wanted it.

He said the RM450,000 contribution for Balkis dinner at the Sunway Lagoon Resort and Spa Hotel and the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park Hotel were a one-off contribution to the organisation and the state took into account the fact that the organisation was run by the wives of state representatives.
We received the endorsement of the state executive council (exco) and the financial officer to host the three events which wives of elected representatives from all 13 states in the country attended , with Balkis as the co-host, he added.

Meanwhile former Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) general manager Datuk Harun Salim agreed with the committee when asked if PKNS was a “tukang bayar” (pay master) for Balkis as the association would forward its bills to the company to be paid.

He said the organisation would usually forward requests to the company to sponsor some of its programmes and admitted that the company usually felt obliged to support Balkis.

Harun however denied that he was concerned about repercussions if he did not endorse the sponsorships because he said his performance and the profits of the company were good.

Therefore this was not a reason he took into account when approving the soponsorships.

PKNS and its subsidiaries had also contributed large sums to Balkis including RM300,000 for the three dinners held on Aug 2,3 and 4.

Pebadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Selangor (PKPS) Mohd Nordin Darhan who also testified before Selcat said the company had on Jan 2006 contributed RM46,000 for the officiating of Balkis complex in Section 7, Shah Alam including the cost of 150 fruit hampers for guests. The Sun

brainless bn govt wasting taxpayers fund by building more White Elephants & it takes one Veteran doctor to ‘cure’ the ailing KK hospital

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 21, 2009 by ckchew

Retired government medical specialist Dr Anil Kumar Kukreja thinks that he may have come up with a comprehensive action plan, the “perfect” antidote if not a cure, for everything that ails public healthcare in Sabah and Kota Kinabalu’s troubled Queen Elizabeth II General Hospital, largely declared unsafe late last year.

MCPX

The Anil Plan at the micro-level, basically a variation of numerous suggestions made so far by stakeholders, brings Hospital Mesra (HM) into the picture as well for the first time.

HM is KK’s mental hospital where Dr Anil served as director from 1997-2000. He has also been acting Director of the Health Department of Sabah for several stretches over the years.

“The colonial blocks at QEH II housing the medical wards can be easily relocated to Hospital Mesra,” said Dr Anil who still helps out in the private sector while keeping an eye on his franchise outlets under Himalaya Herbals.

“This will allow the creation of the 50-metre construction work space required by safety regulations around the site for the proposed twin tower blocks. Work cannot begin until the colonial blocks are vacated and the abandoned Tower Block demolished.”

New emergency hospital proposal

“The mental wards themselves are more suitable for the four-story podium block at the nine-storey Wisma Khidmat. They should not be in open wards, as at present, at Hospital Mesra. Fortunately, the number of violence-prone patients number less than ten.”

The state government has proposed the currently vacant state GLC-owned Wisma Khidmat as a new emergency hospital to make up for a shortfall of 250 beds in KK. Also in the pipeline is a new hospital in Kinarut, on the outskirts of KK, to replace the Tower Block at QEH II which had been declared unsafe.

The state government has already made the required land available to the Ministry of Health. Another state government proposal is to build a decanting ward with 250 beds within four to five months near the QEH II car park.

Dr Anil’s idea is that Kinarut should be the new mental hospital.

He came forward with his plan in the wake of concerns expressed in recent days by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) over the dilly-dallying by the Ministry of Health (MOH) since the decanting of the QEH II.

MMA president Dr Khoo Kah Lin has warned that “the MMA hopes the Ministry of Health is able to expedite support and resources for a sustainable and long-term solution to the unfortunate situation (QEH II)”.

“Fragmentation of crucial services will be detrimental to patient safety and good clinical practice,” added Dr Khoo. “Logistical issues will impair the continuity and quality of care.”

Sabah is not obviously the place to be if one is a stroke victim and can only rely on a government hospital, needs elective surgery at public facilities where the waiting period could be four months, suffers a heart attack requiring immediate surgery or intensive care. The list of inadequacies in public healthcare extends.

Dr Anil said that demolishing the tower block would create a Catch 22 situation

50-metre free work space

Demolishment must be followed by the creation of a 50-metre free work space around the site for the proposed Twin Tower blocks and this would necessitate the temporary abandonment of the low-rise 200-bed colonial blocks on the QEH site which house the medical wards and are still functioning.

Another nearby structure, the emergency and accident centre, does not have to be vacated but suffers from flooding whenever there’s a heavy downpour in the city. Likewise, the low-rise outpatient block and the Post-Graduate Medical Centre on the QEH site can continue to function as usual during construction work on the Twin Towers.

The question was where to re-locate the medical wards from the colonial blocks?

Housing the medical wards from the colonial blocks at a suitable location and immediate intervention by the Finance Minister with a suitable budget seems to be the key to unraveling the public healthcare puzzle in Sabah.

One advantage of Hospital Mesra in Bukit Padang is that it has about 50 acres available for future expansion. Anil thinks that the medical wards should stay at Hospital Mesra even after the twin towers are completed and the old colonial wards converted under the macro level of his plan into a centre of excellence for neurology and separately for orthopedics.

Centres of excellence

“Gone are the days when a hospital was judged by the number of beds. At present a hospital bed in KK can reach anything up to a million ringgit and that means a 400-bed hospital can cost RM400 million.

“Of course, this figure includes all the facilities that go with the bed,” said Anil. “Now the trend is towards setting up centres of excellence for various ailments.”

Other centres of excellence envisaged by Dr Anil are oncology at the Likas Hospital, formerly the old Sabah Medical Centre (SMC), infertility centre, obstetrics and gynaecology, pediatric/dental care and nephrology, all housed independently but at the same hospital. The proposed Heart Centre can be housed at the proposed Twin Towers, adds Dr Anil.

At present, there is no heart centre in Sabah and the only service available is once a month when a team from the National Heart Institute (IJN) visits the SMC. Alternatively, patients have to be sent to the IJN for which Sabahans including other Malaysians habitually resident in the state and registered at the QEH II have to fork out just RM 1,000. The rest of the medical fees are paid by the state government.

“When mental patients shift to the proposed new hospital in Kinarut, the podium block can be the centre for excellence for gastro-enthrology services,” said Dr Anil.

In addition, Dr Anil urges that the purchase of the new SMC go ahead as the owners are willing to let it go for a reasonable sum. Apparently, they intend to use some of the proceeds to build a RM50 million boutique hospital along the waterfront near the Sutera Harbour Resort, a stone’s throw from downtown KK.

The Sabah Medical Centre – originally built at RM150 million – is expected to cost RM400 million after the owners have renovated the structure as per the ministry’s specifications and requirements.

Unreasonable stance

There are distinct differences in layout between a five-star hotel-style private hospital and an open ward government hospital. The sticking point, according to those in the know, appears to be the insistence by the MOH and the Federal Government (Ministry of Finance) that the state government fork out half the purchase cost of the SMC.

This is seen as an unreasonable stance by the MOH and the Ministry of Finance, and one which has thrown a spanner in the works, since public healthcare matters are a federal matter under the federal and state constitutions.

The Health Ministry is at present renting space at SMC at RM30,000 daily following the decanting of QEH II. Use of personnel, services and facilities at SMC are billed separately.

The tragedy of QEH II cries out for an immediate solution, pleads Dr Anil. “Already, patients suffering from diseases that require urgent treatment, such as cancer and heart diseases, are being flown to Kuala Lumpur and Penang for treatment. “

“Moreover, matters are being compounded by some patients who refuse to go out of the state for treatment as disclosed by the Sabah Health Director Dr Marzukhi Mohd Isa.”

It is known that the state government is bearing the brunt, if not all, of the costs involved in ferrying patients to other states for medical treatment.

Decanting of QEH has further compounded the situation at the dependent hospitals in Kuala Penyu (60 beds) built at RM50 million; Pitas (60 beds) built at RM50 million; Sipitang (100 beds) built at RM100 million; and Keningau (200 beds) built at RM200 million.

“All of them continue to be white elephants sitting in the tropical sun, being understaffed and lacking in the necessary equipment,” according to the medical community. Mkini

Stop online censorship and harassment

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) are alarmed that six people have been charged for making comments about Perak royal family. The use of Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) violates the Act’s stated promise that it would not be used to censor the Internet. CIJ and WAMI are also worried that this might be the start of a clampdown on online expression and the erosion of the right to discuss the role of the Malaysian royal families.

Local media reported on 13 March that six people are being charged under section 233(1) of CMA and section 34 of the Penal Code for “insulting” the Perak royalty. Section 233(1) is broadly worded to penalize the “improper use of facilities or network service, etc”. It carries a jail term of one year and a fine of up to RM50,000. In Kuala Lumpur, a lab assistant, Azrin Mohd Zain, 33, has pleaded guilty and been fined RM10,000. The others from all over the country are claiming trial.

CIJ and WAMI are deeply concerned that a precedent has been set for online censorship using the same law that is said to protect the free flow of information online. It goes against Malaysia’s commitment of no internet censorship legislated in section 3(3) of CMA and in the Multimedia Bill of Guarantees. The violation of the promise is a sign that the government, at the brink of the impending change in prime minister-ship, is getting more authoritarian.

The charges against the six also come during an on-going political crisis in Perak and we question whether penalizing public discussion on the fallibility of the monarchy is also the Federal ruling party (BN) ‘s attempt to stop the discussion about its role in the political crisis. We condemn the action against the six, and the reports that further action will be taken, as moves aimed at spreading fear and silencing the Malaysian public.

CIJ and WAMI call for all charges to be dropped and for no further action to be taken against the online commentators. We call for freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution be respected.

Issued by
Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director, CIJ

and

Wong Chin Huat
Chairperson, WAMI

very in-dependent MACC: umno Breach of ethics or money politic or corruption “not criminal in nature”

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

(Bernama) — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said today they are not involved in investigations pertaining to political parties’ ethics as a breach of discipline or ethics “is not criminal in nature”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan said this when asked to comment on calls by opposition parties that the MACC investigate Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam who was barred from contesting in party elections after he was found guilty of money politics.

“We welcome anyone who wants to make a report but we must be able to differentiate that a breach of party ethics and discipline is not criminal in nature,” he said.

He said the MACC investigations director Datuk Shukri Abdullah was still awaiting reports if there were criminal elements in the case being acted on by the Umno Dis0ciplinary Board recently.

cowed MACC: Corruption or money politic in umno is ok but they can find ‘Elements’ of abuse of power when the Perak Speaker carried out his duty to the people

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

There are ‘elements’ to show that Perak speaker V Sivakumar had abused his powers in relation to the suspension of Menteri Besar Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive councillors, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Ahmad Said Hamdan today.

MCPX

He said MACC will record statements from several more state assemblypersons, including those from Barisan Nasional, to complete the investigation.

“For us, there are elements of abuse of power, we are investigating … not prosecuting, in order to collect statements regarding the matter,” he was quoted as saying by Berita Harian.

Yesterday, MACC recorded the statements of four Pakatan Rakyat assemblypersons – who are members of the Rights and Privileges Committee – in connection with the suspension.

The committee, chaired by Sivakumar, had adopted the decision to suspend following a complaint lodged by state assemblyperson for Canning, Wong Kah Woh, against the seven citing contempt of the assembly for having allegedly accepted their appointments unconstitutionally.

The committee had suspended Menteri Besar Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir from the assembly for 18 months and the six executive councillors for 12 months.

Another member of the committee, state assemblyperson for Selinsing, Husin Din, was questioned by the MACC at his residence on March 17 while Sivakumar gave his statement at the official residence of the Perak menteri besar on Feb 26.

Police report filed

Meanwhile, Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming filed a report with the Ipoh police district headquarters for being barred from entering the state secretariat building on March 3.

“I was shocked when I arrived. The members of the House were prevented from entering to exercise their duties as elected representatives.

“I found that a police team, a FRU (Federal Reserve Unit) team and a group of thugs standing in front of the building to stop the proceedings until a commotion and scuffle erupted,” he said in the report.

According to the opposition leader, he and Perak DAP chief Ngeh Koo Ham were told by Ipoh police chief Aziman Aliaz that he was instructed by the state secretary Abdul Rahman Hashim not to allow them into the building.

Nga said it is an offence under Section 124 of the Penal Code for any quarters to stop state assemblypersons from exercising their duties.

“So I am lodging this police report so that action can be taken against all those involved in the incident,” he added.

After being barred from the premises, the Pakatan Rakyat representatives held their meeting under a nearby tree.

Perak has been enveloped in a political crisis since the Barisan Nasional took over the state government following the defection of several Pakatan Rakyat assemblypersons.

Court of Appeal rules against Nizar

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal today rejected an appeal by ousted Perak Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin against a High Court order to transfer his case against new MB Zambry Abdul Kadir to the Federal Court.

Nizar had filed an appeal on Monday against the High Court’s decision to refer his suit against Zambry on the legitimacy of his appointment as the menteri besar to the Federal Court.

High Court judge Lau Bee Lan had ruled on March 6 that there were constitutional issues involving the interpretation of Article 16 (6) of the Perak constitution and referred four constitutional questions to the Federal Court for determination.

Nizar had filed for a judicial review on Feb 13, seeking a declaration that he is the rightful menteri besar of Perak and an injunction to bar Zambry from discharging his duties as the menteri besar.

The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed Nizar’s appeal, ruling that the High Court decision to transfer the case to the apex court was correct.

The matter would now be heard at the Federal Court on Monday.

In a related case, the judicial review applications by Sivakumar and three opposition assemblymen against three independents and the Election Commission have been put off to March 27.

Judge Lau allowed the adjournment pending Federal Court decisions on some constitutional issues raised in Nizar vs Zambry suit. Mkini

101 EAST Aljazeera: Aljazeera digged deep into capital cronisme by taib mahmud’s family in Sarawak & masing defended the undefendable

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

MCA just pay lip service: MCA faulted for not allowing foreign cargo ships to visit Borneo ports directly

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

Traders in Kota Kinabalu pooh-pooh the ‘chicken-and-egg’ (CAE) theory being advocated by Peninsular Malaysia-based ship owners defending the National Cabotage Policy (NCP) – currently being reviewed by the federal government – and which has since come under attack amidst calls that it be scrapped.

MCPX

Instead, the traders fault MCA for holding back Sabah and Sarawak in the last 25 years.

Under the NCP, foreign shippers are not allowed to visit Borneo ports directly with their goods. They have to offload at Port Klang, the designated national load centre. About 3,400 Malaysian-owned ships engage in the domestic trade.

“Any investigation will lead us eventually to the decision-making body that has been maintaining the NPC since 1980. This includes the Domestic Shipping Licensing Board (DSLB) and the Transport Ministry,” said one importer in KK who requested anonymity.

“It’s not surprising that both these bodies are actually under the purview of MCA which is in the pockets of 15 shippers who control the domestic trade.

“MCA should not just pay lip service. They should look after the welfare and interests of all Malaysians. They should not just look after the welfare and interests of an elite few, a particular race or clan.”

Citing some figures, the importer pointed out that it costs RM2,436 to ship a 20-foot container from Port Klang to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan (RM3,236), Tawau (RM3,336), Lahad Datu via Sandakan (RM4,186) and Lahad Datu via Tawau (RM4,386).

Kota Kinabalu for example, said the importer, is closer to Saigon (to import rice) or Hong Kong (consumer goods) compared with Port Klang.

He described the Malaysian Logistics Council (MLC) as another ‘red herring’ being thrown into the discussion by Deputy Minister V K Liew, also president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The MLC is said to have very little to do with the problems of Sabah and Sarawak under the NCP.

Exporters fear that the Sabah Development Corridor, Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP) and the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) will become white elephants as “investments are being discouraged by the NCP.”

Main critical element

Shipping has also been identified as the main critical element in the development of the Bimp-Eaga economic growth triangle which brings together Sabah, Labuan, Sarawak, Brunei, southern Philippines, Kalimantan, and other parts of Indonesia in Sulawesi, Moluccas and Irian Jaya.

“If you cannot export your finished products directly because of the NCP, then you are stuck with goods that you cannot sell in the global market,” said an exporter.

“We may have all the tropical hardwood in the world, for example, we can call ourselves resource-rich, we can talk about value-added manufacturing and backward and forward integration of the timber industry but we can’t compete with even Vietnam in terms of furniture exports for the European market because of the NCP.”

Generally, port authorities in Kota Kinabalu have noted that since the Transport Ministry is MCA territory, “the recommendations of MCA ministers carry more weight than all the other federal cabinet ministers combined when issues involving the ministry are brought up in the cabinet”.

Edward Khoo, the sole MCA representative in the Sabah cabinet, denies his party is pro-NCP and reveals that the state government is working on finalising its own report for submission to the ministry.

Apparently, the report will call for the abolition of the NCP and the recognition of Sepanggar Bay Port near KK Port as the main hub in the state along the lines of Bintulu which has long won the status for Sarawak. This is expected to boost Sepanggar as a premier port in Bimp-Eaga, according to FSM (Federation of Sabah Manufacturers) president, Wong Khen Thau.

The consensus in Malaysian Borneo is that the crippling consumer prices in are a result of the NCP. The CAE theory is that consumer prices in Malaysian Borneo remain the same even when freight charges drop and hence the NCP cannot be blamed.

Masa (Malaysian Shipowners Association) maintains that shipping is only one component of the total transportation and logistics cost which makes up 46 percent of the total. The association claims it has since identified eight other cost components in the transport charge from the exporter to the importer and the charges include, among others, port charges, forwarding, trucking, storage and terminal handling charges.

Neighbours will do something

This argument doesn’t sit well with port authorities in Borneo who complain that “the government gets only a few thousand ringgit from licensing Malaysian-registered ships, the truckers don’t get much, freight forwarders and shipping agents are basically just runners squeezing out a meager existence while port authorities are also in the same position”.

“If high shipping cost was the only reason, one could assume that when shipping cost declines, the prices of goods would likewise drop. But this has not been the case,” said Masa chair Nordin Mat Yusoff.

“But this has not been the case. Total ocean freight rates declined by about 41 percent in the last six months in the Peninsular Malaysia-Sarawak-Sabah trade but this has not been reflected in the landed prices of consumer goods.”

“There is a need to find an answer instead of blaming the NCP.”

Industry watcher Loong Chai opines that Nordin’s statement must be taken with more than a pinch of salt since he’s also the vice-president (fleet management) of MISC Bhd which has deployed 80 percent of their 109 ships in LNG, petroleum and chemical transportation.

“MISC fears that without the NCP, they will lose 80 percent of their business to Japanese and Korean ships since they can’t compete,” said Loong Chai.

Institute of Development Studies Sabah (IDS) executive director Yaakub Johari warns that “eventually, if we do not open up, our neighbours will do something against us.”

“The progressive removal of the NCP, leading to the forging of alliances with other major ports and shipping lines, and liberalising shipping licences to increase competition among local operators, will lead to lower freight costs,” said Yaakub. Mkini

Sarawak bn state govt: Timber – How Do we Cheat?

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

Sarawak Headhunter

Sarawak Headhunter will make this as simple as possible so that everyone can understand beyond a doubt how Taib, his family, henchmen and cronies involved in the timber business blatantly cheat (actually steal) and shortchange the state so that they themselves can obtain maximum benefit and profit without having to account for it or pay the royalties and taxes rightfully due to the state and federal governments.

There are a few basic ways to do it, all involving under-declarations or false declarations, with the connivance of the state authorities of course.

First is to under-declare the volume or tonnage sold/exported. Next is to under-declare the grade and the price combined with false declarations as to the actual species and actual buyers. This involves nothing more than having 2 different sets of shipping documents drawn up and that more or less completes the method of operation of all timber scams perpetrated by them. Very simple and straightforward.

Don’t the authorities know about this? Of course they do – they are all involved and everyone gets his cut. How does Sarawak Headhunter know this? Just take a look at the official statistics on the Malaysian Timber Industry Board’s (MTIB) website.

More valuable and expensive species are grouped together and supposedly sold as MLH or Mixed Light Hardwood, the cheapest timber, which sold for RM480 per m3 ex-logpond in Malaya in May 2008 compared to Dark Red Meranti at RM860 and Chengal at RM2,290. See the prices here.

But then, you may ask, why am I using Malayan prices?

The reason is very simple. Somehow, Sarawak timber has managed to do the impossible and priced itself even below Malayan MLH. How is this possible, unless they (the Sarawak timber companies) are cheating? In fact they have cheated so much that this is what has actually happened. Don’t believe me? Where is the evidence of this? See the MTIB site here (Export of Logs by Sarawak, January-August 2008).

Sarawak exported 2,402,146 m3 of logs during this period with a total FOB value of RM1,080,000,115. No species are stated – are we to assume all are MLH? The average price per m3 is therefore RM450.

First of all, even if we accept that ALL Sarawak log exports are MLH, we would expect the FOB price to be higher than the logpond price because of transport costs.

Secondly, it is unbelievable that Sarawak does not export any higher-priced logs of more valuable species such as meranti. If there are any such higher-priced logs, definitely the average price would be higher than that for MLH.

Even if only 10% of the volume of the logs was priced at an average of RM1,000 per m3, this would bring the average price per m3 up to RM505 and make a difference of RM132 million in revenue. Do you think it is only RM132 million that they have not declared?

To capture the difference, they use a mechanism known as “transfer pricing”, where they will invoice a related company (controlled by themselves) the lower price and sum, and this related company, usually residing outside of Malaysia in a friendly lower-tax or even tax-free country, will then invoice the actual buyer the real price and sum.

This is illegal of course and constitutes not only tax evasion but also money laundering.

You can figure out for yourself the scale of their deception and how much these greedy pigs have stolen out of Sarawak’s timber resources over the years, that is on top of whatever else they have stolen from the government coffers through one-sided contracts, over-priced, wasteful and unnecessary projects plus the costs of their mismanagement, misgovernance and maladministration.

Land of the damned: Corruptions & Capital Cronisme in Sarawak, a big family affair

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

If what Sarawak Energy Berhad (“SEB”) is scheming to implement for Sarawak together with elements of China’s state-owned companies involved in electricity-generation and hydro-electric power plants/dams, Sarawak will have the dubious honour of having the most number of dams in Malaysia (52 dams to be precise), which it does not need.

What does this mean for Sarawakians? Who will benefit from these dams and the electricity generated from them? How will they affect the natives and the wildlife who live in the areas where they are planned to be located? How will they affect the environment and the entire eco-systems of large parts of Sarawak? What will the costs be like and who will bear these costs? What will the profits be like and who will derive these profits?
The frightening conclusion is that the people of Sarawak, especially the natives, will continue to be held hostage and to ransom by Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister and his family, henchmen and cronies for a very very long time (long even after Taib is dead and gone – he will be dead soon enough, sooner than later).

Take a look for instance at who is behind SEB, supposedly 65% owned by the state government. Why “supposedly”? Because Taib treats state government-owned corporations as if they were his own, and the same goes for his family, henchmen and cronies. As can be seen from its Annual Report 2007, most of the top management of SEB are either related in one way or another to Taib and are active participants in the continuing gang rape of Sarawak:

Hamed Sepawi is a cousin of Taib’s, also Chairman of Naim Cendera Holdings Berhad and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad. He is a timberman, formerly with STIDC (the Sarawak Timber Industrial Development Corporation) and holds a Master’s degree in Forest Products. Aziz Husain is Taib’s brother in law, former State Secretary. Wilson, present State Secretary, is married to Mohd Leo Toyad’s cousin.

J.C. Fong is former Sarawak State Attorney General responsible for drafting anti-NCR and other anti-native land laws for Taib’s regime. Idris Buang is Taib’s former Chief Political Secretary, also a Director of Hock Seng Lee Berhad (all Sarawakians should know the significance of this). Nordin Baharuddin is Chairman of KUB Malaysia Berhad and also a Director of Scomi Engineering Berhad (all Malaysians should know the significance of this).

Can they really be classified as “independent” directors? Only nominally.

Their secret plans to build 52 dams in collusion with China state-owned corporations involved in dams (especially the Three Gorges Dam project, described by Chinese journalist Dai Qing as “a black hole of corruption”) have been exposed previously. Notwithstanding this exposure, we can still expect these 52 dams to become 52 black holes of corruption! That is if there is no change in the state government in the next elections.

Let us have a closer look at those plans.

Click on the above link to get a copy of the PDF document of this Powerpoint presentation.

The Panda Bears and the Orang Utans have now teamed up to rob Sarawak in the name of friendship?






We have the world’s largest LNG complex in Bintulu. If we can export all that gas, why can’t we use it for local power generation as well? Surely building a state-wide gas pipeline will be cheaper to construct and operate rather than 52 dams? There would also be other side benefits such as the use of gas for domestic households as well. Unless of course there are other reasons why they won’t seriously consider this option.


Here we have it, 52 dam sites identified covering a large part of Sarawak. How many natives will these dams displace? Irrelevant. Where will they be resettled and under what allternative conditions will they have to live and obtain a livelihood? Irrelevant. How much forest and wildlife will disappear and become extinct? Irrelevant. How will these dams affect the eco-systems and the environment? Irrelevant. How much money will Taib, his family, henchmen and cronies and their children for generations make at the expense of all other Sarawakians? Now that is relevant!




Increase the use of gas for power generation.

Increased use of gas will decrease the use of coal, which is arguably more polluting than gas.

Do we really need more huge lakes similar to the lake in Bakun which is supposedly the size of Singapore? Aren’t we in the least concerend about the environmental impact all these lakes will cause and the environmental damage caused by damming up our rivers?















Why hydropower? Costs can be as low as 2 sen per kwh (and even for Bakun with the submarine cable, 3.5 sen per kwh). There are virtually no fuel costs and the electricity can still be sold at market rate – profits can be as high as 400% to 500% if the cost savings are not passed on to the consumer. Added bonus is the unaccounted for timber felled during site clearing.


Do you see what I see? Timber, timber, timber! Do you think the natives will get a few sticks at least? No hope lah!

Why China, knowing the level of corruption that goes on in their dam-building companies? Or is it precisely because of that? Does anyone know how much all the timber in Murum is worth?

More timber.

Yet more timber.

No more timber.

Never mind. Still more timber here.

Timber, timber, timber…any for James Masing I wonder? Maybe if he’s been a good boy.

Still got timber lah! Who said TPK took it all? No wonder there are still logging concessionsin the area.

How much timber are we talking about here? Billions and billions of RM worth, all to disappear without a trace.



Yes folks, the timber and the forests will be gone soon enough if they get their way. But they have plans far, far into the future. Dare we think that those plans will have the interest of future generations of Sarawakians in mind? Or are our future generations just going to be consumers of a captive market and victims of a nefarious scheme to enslave them to a system that is designed to be controlled by the descendants of Taib’s family, henchmen and cronies? What a scheme!


Yes! Thank you! Thank you! Your continuing loyalty to Taib and the Sarawak (as well as Federal) BN will ensure your enslavement and that of your descendants to future generations of exploiters of his family, henchmen and cronies and those of the Malayans as well.

If you do not wish to see this happen and Sarawak to become Land of the Dammed, influence everyone you know to vote against Taib and his BN regime in the Batang Ai by-election and the next state elections as well.

Do this for the sake of your own future and that of your children and their children, that you and they may live your lives in dignity and free from oppression, tyranny and deprivation caused by the greed and lust for power of a few evil and twisted individuals.

Your destiny is in your own hands.

Sarawak Headhunter

‘Green’ dams hasten rape of Borneo forests

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 20, 2009 by ckchew

Tribal peoples are fighting huge hydro-electric projects that are carving up the island’s rainforest

Access roads and terraced fields erase Sarawak's rolling lowlands

Deforestation: Access roads and terraced fields erase Sarawak’s rainforests

THE island of Borneo, a fragile treasure house of rainforests, rare animals and plants, is under threat from plans for Chinese engineers to build 12 dams that will cut through virgin land and displace thousands of native Dayak people.

The government of the Malaysian state of Sarawak says the dams are the first stage of a “corridor of renewable energy” that will create 1.5m jobs through industries powered by safe, clean hydro-electricity.

Campaigners are furious but appear powerless in the face of a project they fear will compound the devastation wreaked on Borneo’s peoples and land by previous dam projects and the felling of its forests.

They point to the ruin caused by the levelling of millions of acres of trees for oil palm plantations to meet the world’s demand for biofuels.

The dams would slice across a vast sweep of Sarawak, a place where wisps of cloud cling to remote, tree-clad peaks, huge butterflies flit through the foliage and orang-utans, sun bears and leopards roam.

There is more than an ecological argument over the scheme. The initial contract has gone to the Chinese state-owned company that built the controversial Three Gorges dam – a project described by Dai Qing, the campaigning Chinese journalist, as “a black hole of corruption”.

Teams from the China Three Gorges Project Corporation are at work on the first of the 12 new dams at Murum, deep in the interior, from where Sarawak’s great rivers uncoil towards the South China Sea.

Tribal peoples are dazed and frightened, telling a visiting researcher last week that they had been ordered off their ancestral lands. Signs in Chinese were posted all over the project site.

No financial details or contracts have been publicly disclosed. Analysts in China say the work is likely to have been financed in part by a loan from a state institution.

Critics argue that Sarawak does not need more electricity. It produces a 20% surplus and there is as yet no cable to deliver power to peninsular Malaysia – which itself generates more energy than it needs.

Company records filed with the Malaysia stock exchange show that a big beneficiary of the policy is a firm whose shareholders and directors include the wife and family of Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sarawak’s chief minister.

Taib, 72, who drives around in a vanilla Rolls-Royce, is one of the richest and most powerful men in Malaysian politics. He also serves as Sarawak’s finance minister and planning minister.

The family-owned firm, Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), has interests in cement, construction, quarrying and road building. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Rio Tinto, the London-listed mining group, to build a “world class” aluminium smelter that will get its electricity from a dam at Bakun.

The Bakun dam, a separate project due to be completed by 2011, has already displaced an estimated 10,000 indigenous people, leading to bitter legal battles and a chorus of dismay from economists about cost overruns.

Malaysia’s reinvigorated opposition is now campaigning against what it calls “crony capitalism”, helping hitherto powerless tribal peoples to challenge in the courts land grabs and cheating.

For all that, it may be too late to save the natural bounty of Borneo itself. Orphaned orang-utans, piteously holding the outstretched hands of their human saviours, are the most conspicuous symbols of its fragility.

Divided between Malaysia and Indonesia, with Brunei occupying a tiny enclave in the north, Borneo’s riches have ensured its plunder.

One reason is the voracious world demand for timber. The other is the fashion for biofuels made from palm oil. Almost half of Borneo’s rainforests have been cut down. Two million acres have vanished every year as trees are felled, the wood sold and the land turned over to oil palms.

The greatest plunderer of all was Indonesia’s late dictator, Suharto, who doled out timber concessions to generals and cronies during his 32 years in power.

Now the central government in Jakarta is winning praise for a determined crackdown that has slowed the rate of illegal logging.

However, much of Indonesian Borneo is already laid waste. Enormous fires cast a perpetual pall of toxic haze, making Indonesia the world’s third largest greenhouse gas polluter after China and the United States.

“Green gold”, or palm oil, poses an even more insidious threat because it promises prosperity and development to the numerous poor of Borneo – along with immense rewards for the elites.

The vegetable oil comes from crushed palm husks. Long used for cooking, cosmetics and soap, it has now become a principal source of biodiesel fuel.

Malaysia and Indonesia produce about 85% of the world’s supply of palm oil – most of it on Borneo.

The price of this apparently environment-friendly fuel is high. Its damage far outweighs its benefits, according to a recent international study published in the journal Conservation Biology.

One of the research team, Emily Fitzherbert of the Zoological Society of London, concluded that oil palm as a biofuel was “not a green option”.

John Anthony Paul, a Dayak notable in Sarawak, explained it another way: “There’s a stench from the palm oil mill close to my longhouse. There’s a huge quantity of slurry and sludge. Our water is deteriorating. Many fish disappear and there are more floods. Pesticides leach into our soil. The insects start to change, so the pollination changes and so does the quality of our fruits and crops. It’s unsustainable.”

Resistance is growing. Last week two Dayaks walked for four hours, carrying their sharp-edged parangs, or blades, to meet me near a cluster of huts housing Chinese dam workers.

The scene was Bengoh, a place so wild, flower-strewn and lovely that it would have made a tourist poster were it not for the grumble of construction noise and the gouged earth.

The Dayaks are being forced out of their villages because engineers from SinoHydro, a second Chinese contractor, are building yet another dam to improve the water supply to Kuching, capital of Sarawak.

“We are 28 families, in our village since our ancestors,” said Simo Anakbekam, 48. “The government says we must leave. We want them to recognise our rights to our land.”

The state government says it has offered adequate compensation plus resettlement to new homes with better jobs, health and education.

However, most people in Simo’s village just want to move higher up their familiar mountainside and cannot understand why they must depart for the hot, marshy lowlands.

It turned out to be an example of legal coercion with the familiar echo of “crony capitalism”. Armed with eviction orders, the dam builders told the Dayaks their presence might contaminate the new water supply.

However, lawyers for the villagers found draft plans for the Bengoh dam – drawn up, the documents state, with input from Halcrow, the British consultancy firm – which reveal that unnamed investors plan to build two resorts on the site.

The Dayaks are now fighting for better compensation and the right to stay in the area.

All over Sarawak, tribal people have lost their ancestral lands to similar gambits. “They don’t know that this thing is coming until they hear the sound of the bulldozers,” said See Chee How, a lawyer and civil rights activist.

It is worse deep in the northeast interior, where logging, palm oil and dams threaten the existence of the Penan, a nomadic tribe. Last week a British researcher for Survival International, the campaign group, found people running short of food.

“They hunt but go for weeks at a time without finding a single animal. Fish are also scarce, because the logging silts up the rivers. Sago is becoming more and more difficult to find,” said the researcher, who asked not to be named.

“One old man told me that the changes could be seen in the bodies of the young people, who were thinner and weaker than the people of his generation. The Penan asked me again and again to get news of their plight to the outside world.”

The ravishing of Borneo – its peoples, animals and the land itself – has roots in the past. But there may be a remedy, too.

Sarawak led a romantic, isolated existence under the “white rajahs” of the Brooke dynasty, whose adventurous founder, James Brooke, established himself in 1848 as an absolute ruler. His heirs held power until 1946.

The Brookes disdained the British empire’s commerce and industry, seeking to preserve a noble Dayak culture in all its splendour.

They established native customary rights by which district officers recorded land tenure as a way to stop headhunting wars among the Dayaks. The rajahs also granted leases and published an official gazette.

Malaysian courts have upheld cases based on such documents and now a hunt is on for letters folded away in longhouses and yellowing copies in archives in Britain. For many in faraway Sarawak, it may be their only hope of justice.

Hearing on Kugan’s ‘dubious’ autopsy report put off

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 19, 2009 by ckchew

The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) hearing on a complaint lodged against the doctor who performed the first autopsy on deceased police detainee Kugan Ananthan has been postponed.

MCPX

The hearing by a special six-member committee was supposed to begin at 3.30pm in Kuala Lumpur, but Kugan’s family had sought the postponement to allow the doctor in question – Dr Abdul Karim Tajuddin – to seek legal representation.

The hearing conducted by the MMC’s Preliminary Investigations Committee and chaired by Dr Megat Burhainuddin Abd Rahman, fixed April 17 for the next session.

The hearing is being conducted in the Health Promotion Board headquarters, next to Masjid Negara.

Lawyer N Surendran, who is representing Kugan’s family, said his clients wanted Abdul Karim to be properly represented to defend himself against the allegation of misconduct.

He added that Abdul Karim, from Serdang Hospital, should be given time to seek counsel so that he would not be in an “unfair disadvantage”.

“This is not just any inquiry. It has far reaching consequences which would affect public confidence on public hospitals,” he said.

Conflicting autopsy reports

Surendran said such cases must be probed properly because there is widespread belief that pathologists often cover-up for the police in cases of custodial death.

Kugan, 22, died on Jan 20 at the Taipan police station in Subang Jaya after being in custody for five days. He was probed for alleged involvement in a car theft ring.

Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar claimed that the autopsy report from Serdang Hospital showed that Kugan died from “water in the lungs.”

However, Kugan’s family discovered burn marks and bruises all over the deceased’s body and sought a second autopsy from Universiti Malaya Medical Centre which greatly differed from the Serdang Hospital report.

The second autopsy report suggested that Kugan was beaten to death. Following this, Kugan’s mother S Indra lodged a report with the MMC against Abdul Karim for alleged misconduct. Mkini

Kenyataan Media Tian Chua: PENYELEWENGAN DAN KRONISME DALAM KEMENTERIAN PERTAHANAN DIBAWAH najib ALTANTUYA

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 18, 2009 by ckchew

PENYELEWENGAN DAN KRONISME DALAM KEMENTERIAN PERTAHANAN

Ekoran daripada pendedahan oleh Ketua Pembangkang Dewan Rakyat mengenai isu pembelian Eurocopter dengan harga begitu tinggi dan memberi keuntungan kepada pihak-pihak tertentu. Akhirnya, Perdana Menteri mengumumkan keputusan kerajaan menangguhkan pembelian tersebut.

Hari ini, sekali lagi pendedahan isu penyelewengan dalam Kementerian Pertahanan mengenai proses perolehan dan mempunyai unsur kronisme bagi pemimpin negara. Orang yang bernama Syed Abu Hussin Bin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal tidak asing lagi bagi kakitangan dan kontraktor-kontraktor Kementerian Pertahanan. Pada masa yang sama, beliau juga merupakan ahli UMNO (No ahli: 00924477) dari Bahagian Bukit Gantang, Perak.

Beliau mempunyai lebih 30 syarikat di mana beliau merupakan ahli lembaga pengarah ataupun pemegang syer. Melalui syarikat-syarikat ini, beliau berjaya menguasai hampir 90% projek-projek pembekalan pelbagai rangsum bagi Kementerian Pertahanan yang mencecah ratusan juta ringgit. Contoh syarikat yang dimiliki oleh beliau seperti berikut:-

a. Komantra Sajian Sdn Bhd memperolehi secara rundingan terus projek penswataan perkhidmatan katering Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) bagi Zon Utara dan Timur Semenanjung Malaysia yang mencecah lebih daripada RM 600 juta.

b. Gpb Coporation Sdn Bhd memperoleh projek perkhidmatan pengangkutan bas untuk kem-kem Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN) yang mencecah lebih daripada RM 300 juta.

Bukan sahaja memperolehi projek-projek begitu senang sekali, beliau turut tidak melaksanakan tugas dengan beramanah. Antaranya, menghantar bekalan yang tidak mengikut spesifikasi yang ditetapkan dalam tender. Mengurangkan kuantiti bekalan yang sepatutnya dihantarkan atau tidak menghantar bekalan langsung tetapi invoice tetap dihantarkan kepada Kementerian Pertahanan untuk proses pembayaran.

Ini telah membuktikan sekali lagi keraguan dan ketelusan yang melibatkan pemimpin negara untuk memberi keuntungan kepada pihak-pihak tertentu dalam Kementerian Pertahanan.

YB TIAN CHUA
AHLI PARLIMEN BATU

bn way to bring down Pakatan state govt: ICU programme in S’gor a federal conspiracy?

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , on March 18, 2009 by ckchew

The federal government’s ‘people-centric programme’ under the Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU) in Selangor came under fire in the House today when Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim alleged it a conspiracy to topple the Pakistan Rakyat-led state.

MCPX

Echoing the allegation which was raised in the state assembly last Friday, Anwar claimed the federal government has resorted to ‘gutter politics’ by abusing the RM52 million programme implemented under the prime minister’s department.

In his speech at the committee stage debate of the Supplementary Supply Bill, Anwar revealed that the programme objectives included ‘strengthening people’s positive perception towards the federal government’ and ‘restricting the people’s support only to the federal government’.

“This does to show that it wants to purposely tarnish the state government’s credibility and image,” said Anwar, referring to the documents he received “in my letterbox”.

According to the document, the ICU urges government officials to support the federal government in regaining the two-third majority in the next general election and to win back Selangor from Pakatan, claimed Anwar.

“I am here to back the state government officials. They can’t be dragged into this due to weak politics of their higher officials,” said the Permatang Pauh MP, adding that the programme also urges them to keep Barisan Nasional in power at the federal level.

Election Commission in ICU committee

What was most shocking , added Anwar, was that committee members in the ICU included representatives of an independent body, the Election Commission (EC).

“Why does the EC need to be in the committee? To strengthen BN and topple the Pakatan government? This is a very serious matter under Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s (right) administration,” said Anwar.

This allegation however was slammed by Mohamed Aziz (Sri Gading BN) who said the EC could have an important role in the committee without necessarily supporting the federal government.

“If the EC is not clean, five states would not have fallen into the hands of Pakatan and Permatang Pauh (Anwar) could have lost during the by-election,” he said.

To a question by Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor) as to who was responsible for outlining the objectives under the programme, Anwar said the ICU meetings were previously chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

“Based on the information I have received, the programme came from the ICU under the prime minister’s department and the order was given out in a meeting chaired by the deputy prime minister.

“Why are they being harsh to us? Is it because we have been taking positive steps in the state governments, something that they (federal government) are not prepared to do?”

Minister in PM’s dept ‘bullied’

In a related development, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Amirsham Abdul Aziz, was heckled by the opposition MPs over the programme.

During his winding-up speech, Azmin Ali (PKR Gombak) interjected to ask the minister (right) to explain the RM52 million “conspiracy’”plotted against the Selangor government.

Amirsham ignored the question and continued with his speech.

“This document tabled RM52 million and the ICU is under the prime minister’s department. The money allocated is not for development, but for BN special projects,” persisted Azmin (left).

“I have proof and it states a clear objective of toppling the state government. I have evidence and you are not even denying it. You as a newly-elected senator, why would you want to conspire with BN?”

At this point, many opposition MPs stood up in a show of protest and demanded an answer from Amirsham, to which the latter replied the RM52 million was “spent accordingly”.

Mohamed came to Amirsham’s rescue, saying that the minister was being ‘bullied’ by the Opposition.

This prompted several Pakatan MPs to cite the Standing Orders against Mohamed, resulting in him withdrawing his remark. Mkini

Fakta UMNO Khianat Tanah Orang Melayu

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 17, 2009 by ckchew

Oleh : Ustaz Hj Idris bin Ahmad

Umno Perak terutama Dato’ Zamri ketika Pakatan Rakyat memerintah Perak antara orang yang lantang menuduh Dato’ Seri Haji Nizar boneka kepada China DAP kerana beri tanah kepada orang China di Perak. Modal yang sama juga sedang difitnah oleh jentera Umno/BN kepada pengundi Bukit Gantang. Fitnah kalau undi Pas/Pakatan Rakyat bermakna menggadai tanah orang melayu kepada bangsa asing.

Ini adalah jawapan kepada Dato’ Zamri dan kuncu-kuncu Umno, bahawa yang khianat tanah orang Melayu ialah pemimpin Umno, bukan Pas, bukan DAP dan bukan PKR.

Fakta yang Dato’ Seri haji Nizar kemukakan sudah cukup untuk membuktikan Umno pengkhianat kepada orang Melayu bukan Pakatan Rakyat. Sebagaimana kita sudah buktikan Umno kepala bapa penderkahaka kepada Raja-Raja Melayu.

Sekarang fakta menunjukkan Umno yang khianat tanah orang melayu dan rakyat di negeri Perak.

Kerajaan PR hanya memberi tanah 102,000 lot kampung tersusun (kebanyakan Melayu) melibatkan 7,000 ekar. Manakala 47,000 lot kampung baru (kebanyakan China) dan sebilangan kecil kampung adat (orang asli). Jumlah yang diberi kepada orang China adalah 3,000 ekar sahaja. Itupun tanah yang sudah diduduki orang China lebih daripada 70 tahun lalu.

Melayu sangatkah Umno, sehingga buat bising fasal tanah 3000 ekar yang diberi kepada orang China yang memang haknya untuk dapat kerana mereka adalah rakyat di negara ini, mereka bukan China Singapura atau China Vietnam.

Kalau Umno tuduh Pakatan Rakyat boneka China dan khianat tanah orang Melayu kenapa tanah yang dipohon oleh Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Latif (Pondok Pak Teh Kroh Grik Perak) sejak 1996 telah diluluskan oleh Exco PR pada 2008 sebanyak 45 ekar. Kalau kerajaan yang dipimpin oleh Dato’ Seri Haji Nizar boneka China sudah tentulah permohonan ini tidak diluluskan. Adakah pemimpin Umno ingat Pak Teh ini China Taiwan sehingga permohonan beliau tidak diluluskan. 12 tahun Pak Teh menunggu kelulusan. Tiba-tiba kerajaan yang kononnya boneka China meluluskan permohonan tersebut walaupun tidak sampai sepuluh bulan memerintah. Manakala Umno yang mendakwa tonggak orang Melayu telah kianat kepada bangsa sendiri walaupun tanah itu untuk kegunaan pondok.

Ini fakta menunjukkan Umno penjahanam tanah orang Melayu;

· 22,000 ekar ( Ya! Dua Puluh Dua RIBU ekar) tanah kerajaan di gadai kepada gergasi KLK (KL Kepong) di Lekir, Manjung.

· 5,000 ekar di Bruas 1500 ekar kepada MCA di Bandar Baru , Kampar (UTAR)

· 200 ekar tapak kilang simen Perak Hanjoong (sekarang YTL kerana di gadai oleh pemimpin UMNO kepada YTL! ) Ini tanah rizab melayu di Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar dekat Highway!

· Kerajaan Umno/BN Perak gadai tanah kerajaan di beberapa lokasi komersial di tengah bandar Ipoh, Taiping, Bidor , Kinta, dan Perak kepada taukeh-taukeh jika sekiranya BN kembali berkuasa pada 9 Mac 2008 (selepas PRU-12).

· 9 ribu hektar tanah Rezab Melayu di Selangor telah ditukar status kepada bukan rezab Melayu. Hanya 1/3 sahaja (lebih kurang 3 ribu hektar sahaja yang diganti. Selebihnya jin tanah makan.

Pada tahun 1990, seramai 80 orang penduduk di Pantai Chenang Langkawi yang duduk di atas tanah rezab Melayu dihalau untuk membina Pelangi Beach Resort.

Pada tahun 1990, sebanyak 930 hektar tanah Rezab Melayu Kampung Mambau Negeri Sembilan telah diambil untuk projek Seremban 2. Sebelumnya terdapat 600 orang yang tinggal disitu.

26,000 hektar (dua puluh enam ribu) tanah rezab Melayu di Tanjung Langsat-Tanjung Pia Johor diambil untuk New Town Ship. Projek yang diusahakan oleh Kuok Brother Collabratioan UEM.

300 ekar tanah Rezab Melayu di Pulau Redang Teregganu kepada Vicent Tan untuk projek perlancungan.

Pada tahun 1993, 1000 ekar tanah Rezab Melayu di Kerpan Kedah (tapak sawah yang subur) untuk projek kolam udang.

13 Jun 2008 (Utusan Malaysia) melaporkan penduduk sekitar daerah Kota Tinggi, kecewa dengan tindakan pejabat tanah menolak permohonan mereka mendapatkan tanah seluas 182.11 hektar di Batu 15 Jalan Kulai, Mukim Ulu Sungai Johor di sini. Tanah yang sudah dipohon sejak 20 tahun dahulu telah diberi kepada syarikat bukan bumiputera. Ini siapa punya angkara? PR atau Umno.

Akibat kebodohan pemimpin Umno menyebabkan Pulau Batu Putih pun terlepas yang dapat hanya pulau tenggelam timbul (Batuan Tengah dan Tubir Selatan). Kalau air pasang batu tenggelam, kalau air surut maka Pulau Batu itu timbul. Inilah yang disebut oleh Datuk Rais Yatim Menteri Luar menang-menang. Menang pada Umno ialah Singapura dapat pulau yang tidak tenggelam, manakala Malaysia hadhari dapat pulau tenggelam timbul. Ini lah lawaknya pemimpin Umno yang jaga kedaulatan negara.

Kampung Chu Badak Sentul Kuala Lumpur, sebanyak 273 ekar tanah kampung Melayu tradisi telah menyebabkan kira-kira 160 keluarga telah dihalau keluar kerana pembangunan mega akan dibuat disitu. Tanah rezab Melayu seluas 94 ekar yang diteroka sejak 72 tahun telah terkorban untuk projek Pencala Link dekat Damansara Kuala Lumpur. Sebanyak 840 hektar tanah rezab melayu di Pahang bakal hilang apabila projek ECER (Koridor ekonomi pantai timur)

Pengkhianatan Umno kepada orang Melayu telah berjaya menghilangkan tanah rezab Melayu dari 3juta hektar pada tahun 1957 kepada 1.7 juta hektar (1995). Bermakna 44% tanah rezab Melayu yang ditinggal oleh penjajah dengan susut kadar 1.2% setahun. Nampaknya penjajah lebih berhati perut daripada pemimpin Umno dalam menjaga orang melayu. Kalau tidak disekat maka tahun 2020 tanah rezab Melayu hanya tinggal 30% sahaja.

Daripada fakta di atas bolehlah dirumuskan Umnolah pengkhianat dan menggadai tanah orang melayu, Bukan PAS, bukan PKR dan bukan DAP. Sebenarnya slogan Umno “Hidup Melayu” perlu ditukar kepada slogan sebaliknya, iaitu “di mana Umno kuat di situ Melayu merempat”.

*Penulis adalah AJK PAS Pusat sessi 2007-2009.

One year on, the BN still has no answer

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on March 15, 2009 by ckchew

Hng Hung Yong

IN last year’s general election on March 8, voter support for the Barisan Nasional dropped to an all-time low. The party won just 49% of the popular votes in the peninsula and lost five key states to the Opposition.

Twelve months down the road, a chastised BN still seems unsure about what to do to recover its ground.

This is not what is supposed to happen. The natural response to defeat should be shock and denial, followed by acceptance, reconstruction, and, hopefully, recovery. But the BN appears bogged down at stage one.

Take the case of Umno.

Rebuilding of the party should have begun with the admission of failure and the taking of responsibility. But nobody has accepted responsibility for the party’s disastrous outing in the election. Instead, the party has been engaging in a series of actions to fudge the issue and explain away the need for anyone to take responsibility.

This is inconsistent with Umno’s professed maturity and has done it no good. By placing the future of individuals over that of the party, it shows how lopsided its sense of priorities has become.

Can we trust Umno to get its act together soon? We have to wait till March 26, it seems, when Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as party president. So far, Najib has made the right noises about the need for change. But change is something you do, not something you talk about. So what he does and who he appoints to help him in government will be closely watched.

How have the other major component parties of the BN responded to their election debacle?

The MCA had gone to the 2008 polls with a battered standing. It had spent the previous two years in factional infighting, and the party leader’s claim to leadership was based mainly on the fact that he was head of the faction that won.

Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting also had limited political nous. He could not decide whether the MCA was a social or a political organisation. He failed to articulate clear political goals for the party and the community. His campaign platform highlighted the party’s welfare activities instead of emphasising the political role the party had to play in government by providing checks and balances.

To his credit, Ka Ting accepted responsibility for the party’s poor performance and did not contest the subsequent party election.

Datuk Ong Tee Keat is now party president. He, too, has promised change, but is in danger of allowing his rhetoric to cloud his message. He needs to spell out in practical terms what he means.

Gerakan is in a more difficult position. It was wiped out in Penang, the state it had dominated for many years and where its leader, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Khoon was chief minister. Nationwide, the party has managed to retain only a token presence: two parliamentary seats and three state seats.

The political space the Gerakan has tried to occupy has now been taken over by the DAP and PKR. Its prospects for recovery are limited, and will be considerably diminished if the Pakatan government in Penang is able to maintain the level of public support it enjoys.

So is the Gerakan a viable political proposition anymore? Some members think not, and have left for more neutral ground or joined the Opposition. The party has so far avoided confronting the issue, but it continues to ignore it at its own peril, for that is the surest way to political irrelevance.

The MIC is the smallest of the founding members of the Barisan Nasional and is relied on to secure the Indian vote. Support for the party, however, has probably never been lower.

The reasons are many, and they include having a president who treats the party like his own; the rise of alternative social-political activist groups like Hindraf which have outflanked the MIC in the
espousal of Indian community causes; and the growing success of opposition parties like the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat in winning Indian political support.

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has carved out a role for himself in the MIC that has no equivalent in any other BN party. He runs the party in a tight-fisted style and brooks no opposition. In the 2008 election, his was the loudest boast, a dare to take on one and all in his parliamentary constituency of Sungai Siput. But he was soundly beaten by a political unknown, but has not become any humbler.

What is the party’s future? Can it win back the Indian vote? Samy Vellu’s supporters say he is indispensable to MIC’s recovery. His critics, on the other hand, say nothing will change without a change of leadership. At the party elections next month, the former view is likely to prevail. The biggest sigh of relief then will probably be heard in Opposition parties, where many view Samy Vellu as one of the main reasons they are winning support from the Indian community.

BN’s recovery will take time but is not assured

“If you can’t strengthen your own position, try at least to weaken your enemy’s.” That’s not a quotation from Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but it well describes what the Barisan Nasional is doing in Perak these days: harass the Pakatan Rakyat and prevent it from settling down and showing what it can do in government.

No one knows how the political impasse in Perak is going to pan out, but the BN is obviously hoping to come out on top and rule the state. But even if it fails to do so, it will have done enough to keep the Pakatan Rakyat off-balance and on the defensive.

But BN strategists should not feel so smug. They may win a battle and yet lose the war. The dispute in Perak is the battle, and the next general election is the war. What matters is winning back enough voter support to achieve victory at the polls in three or four years’ time.

It is a fair guess that right now popular support for the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat has not changed much over the last 12 months. In the general election, Pakatan won 51% of the votes in the peninsula and the BN won 49%. The results of two recent by-elections, at Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu, have confirmed that this division of support has remained fairly constant.

By-elections are a particularly stringent test for the Pakatan because it has to contend with the massive firepower of the BN concentrated in a small locality. In both by-elections, the Pakatan was able to hold the line. This confirmed the solidity of its support.

Two more by-elections will be held soon in the peninsula on April 7, at Bukit Selambau in Kedah and Bukit Gantang in Perak. If the Pakatan can successfully defend both seats, it will further confirm that the election outcome of March 8 last year was no flash in the pan, and that the popular support the Opposition enjoys is not easily disassembled.

So the BN’s task of winning back voter support is not an easy one. Is there a winning formula? And will there be enough time to work through it so that it will have an impact in the next general election?

The BN’s problem is that it has lost the trust of a large section of the community. They do not believe the BN will do the right thing by them. After enduring years of neglect, arrogance, abuse of power, corruption, cronyism and discrimination, they finally said “No” at the ballot box.

How can the BN re-build trust? There is no magic here. The formula is simple: honesty, equity, respect and justice. Question is, can these be delivered? And can it be done in sufficient measure to make an impact in the next general election?

The responsibility to deliver will be Najib’s. He won’t find it easy. The rot that has set in is deep-seated and endemic and it will take a strong and determined leader to unwind the system.

Najib can start with Umno. If Umno can demonstrate resolution and move away from the culture of patronage and entitlement that is plaguing it, if it can re-capture some of the high ideals and broad-mindedness of its early years, then there may be some reason to think that change is in the air. The Sun

Farmers left in the cold

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 15, 2009 by ckchew

52 sold agriculture plots for mining, but land now converted to housing
R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandez

SHAH ALAM (March 15, 2009): With a few strokes of the pen, the state acquired agricultural land in Banting, Selangor, from a group of farmers for mining. That was in 1982. Without a single hole being dug, the land is now in private hands and the usage of the land has been changed to housing.

The case of acquisition of 111ha of oil palm plantation is a study of how state instruments are used to acquire land for private interests. It shows that individuals in the state government then got the farmers to surrender their land by making promises which they did not intend to keep.

Having gazetted the acquisition for mining in 1982, the previous land-owners near Brooklyn Estate who had been harvesting oil palm and vegetables since 1962, were told that:

» they would be given alternative land;

» they may continue harvesting until mining commences;

» they would be compensated for the loss of the oil palm trees and vegetable farms.

However, no mining ever commenced and apart from receiving RM8,000 each for their trees and crops, the 52 farmers never received the replacement land that was promised.

In the interim period, the ownership of the land changed several times – first to the hands of state-owned Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Berhad, which then sold the land to another state subsidiary SAP Holdings Berhad in 1994.

In 1996, by another transaction, property developer Goodcrest Development Sdn Bhd was given temporary ownership of the land.

SAP had then entered into a settlement agreement with another state subsidiary Perangsang International Sdn Bhd (PISB) in 1999, following which the land was transferred permanently to Goodcrest Development under a “joint venture” for RM8.45 million on April 5, 2000.

Goodcrest Development directors in the transfer deed were listed as Tan Cha Fak and Tan Chern Chee.

The company’s latest annual return form dated June 30, 2008, names Koh Thuan Heng and Kok Kian On as shareholders – the former holding 249,000 of 250,000 shares; and the latter only one share.

Recent checks with the Companies Commission of Malaysia reveal that Goodcrest Development was registered on Aug 12, 1995 and its directors are now listed as Jamaludin Mohamed and Rosli Mamat – both appointed on Sept 10, 2007.

Last October, the farmers who had been regularly harvesting the vegetables and oil palm were prevented from entering the land.

One of them who approached theSun said as far as the agreement he signed 27 years ago is concerned, he should only cease to harvest the land once mining starts.

“To our understanding, there was no such thing as a housing development project,” said the man who had lodged a police report on Dec 3 last year.

He said the former landowners will be seeking legal counsel to advise them as to their rights and to ensure that the state government honours its end of the bargain which includes offering them alternative land. The Sun

Toyo’s way: Taking the Mickey out of our money

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , , , on March 14, 2009 by ckchew

IN MAY last year, Assistant Superintendents Wan Zainal Wan Mat and Albany Hamzah turned up at the office to record my statement relating to police investigations into the transfer of funds from the Association of Wives of State Assemblymen and Members of Parliament in Selangor (Balkis). They had every reason to because it was theSun that first exposed a major wrongdoing – the illegal transfer of RM9.9 million from the Balkis bank account. To whom it was transferred is academic because the mere misappropriation of funds constitutes an offence. Like efficient police officers, I had expected them to ask me intelligent questions with a view to gathering evidence to prosecute the wrongdoers.

However, that was not the case. Instead, they were more interested in the source of my story and where I had obtained information. They were not ordinary konstabel but officers with rank of ASP, who were directed by the head of the Commercial Crime Division of the police headquarters in Bukit Aman. Debate into their investigations will be purely academic because from their line of questioning, they were not interested in the message but were more interested in nailing the messenger. Despite indisputable proof that almost RM10 million was removed from a bank account, nothing has happened and I am resigned to the fact that there are different values for different people. A jobless mother who shoplifts a tin of infant formula is sent to the slammer while the VIP wives are free to walk around showing off their designer clothes, jewellery and other ill-gotten gains.

But what emerged at the Selangor State Assembly on Wednesday, by the lowest of all standards, should prompt the two ASPs to wake up to the fact that there has not only been illegal transfer of funds meant for the poor, but also abuse of power. If a state-owned company is directed to pay for VIP wives to watch Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in Tokyo, it no longer is child-play or holiday for the less fortunate and the needy. It is systematic looting of state assets for private pleasures which can be summed up only as total and gross misuse and abuse of power – far more serious than slaughtering cows and distributing the meat to the needy.

Let’s draw an analogy. If say, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society which relies on the public for funds decides to take its senior officials on a skiing holiday in the French Alps, do we as ordinary citizens have a right to question such a move? So, when Balkis, which purports to be a caring organisation committed to welfare of the needy, resorts to cmillion-ringgit holidays, don’t we have a right to ask questions?

Who were the Balkis members who (mis)used our money to take in the sights of Tokyo, Hongkong and Seoul? It could not have been just one person. My guess is that a rombongan travelled first class, stayed in five-star hotels and had a stretch-limousine at their service. Let’s look at what that money could have been used for: a well-equipped health clinic or a feeding programme for 40,000 primary school pupils who go to classes on an empty stomach. Yet, these women can pass themselves off as caring wives of politicians and splash the money on a holiday.

This newspaper has previously chronicled the wrongs in Syarikat Permodalan Selangor Berhad, the Selangor Economic Development Corporation and other state-owned companies. The authorities who are tasked with enforcing the law watched with folded arms for reasons known to only them. It must be said that such abuse is not restricted to Selangor. Even in federal agencies and government departments, people’s money has been used to entertain and enjoy. When the oil prices sky-rocketed a few months ago, the Treasury issued a cost-cutting directive. Compare that directive with the expenses of these agencies and departments and a long list of abuses will appear.

But that’s not the end of it. Elsewhere in this newspaper, Terence Fernandez exposes how instruments of the state were used to steal land, bordering on fraud. In the next few days, more will follow. How do we put an end to all this?

The answer is simple – make the wrongdoers pay for their wrongdoings and misuse of power. But it is easier said than done. First, the powers-that-be must have the will and determination to expose their wrongdoings. Secondly, a set of professional auditors must be go through the accounts with a fine-tooth comb. Thirdly, law enforcement agencies (armed with the findings) must investigate and produce a watertight case. Finally and more importantly, the public prosecutor must give his consent and appoint the best legal brains to bring them to book. Let them repent in jail and reflect how they used the poor and the needy as a front to benefit themselves and their families. But the inevitable question is: Are we serious about seeing justice done?

R. Nadeswaran’s guess is that the perpetrators in the Balkis case would be let off since our law enforcers have a tendency to tutup satu mata. He is editor (special reports & investigations) at theSun and can be reached at citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

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