Archive for December, 2008

Syed Husin: Jenapala dropped after declared bankrupt & they want to quit because they felt they were not being rewarded with post in S’gor state administration

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

Malaysiakini

PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali today said that P Jenapala, the party’s former deputy secretary-general, did not quit the party but was dropped from his post because of his financial problems which resulted in him being declared bankrupt.

“Presumably, he was declared bankrupt two weeks ago. He was dropped soon after,” Syed Husin told Malaysiakini.

“We informed him after our supreme council meeting that it was not possible for him to remain an office bearer after being declared bankrupt,” he added.

According to the Registrar of Societies, anyone who is declared bankrupt is prohibited from holding a post in any political party.

Jenapala was informed of the decision by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in the presence of Syed Husin and party secretary-general, Salehuddin Hashim.
Syed Husin however declined to reveal details of Jenapala’s bankruptcy.

When asked about Jenapala’s relationship with top PKR leaders, Syed Husin denied there were “major problems”.

However, he said Jenapala was ticked off after he released a press statement regarding the creation of an Indian club within PKR.

“We told him it wasn’t appropriate. We don’t want a party within a party.”

When asked to respond on the matter, Jenapala said he quit as PKR deputy secretary-general for “personal reasons”.

“I informed Anwar that I will leave … I have no grudge against the party and the president. (I quit) on personal grounds (as) I have certain things to be solved,” he added.

When prodded further, he confirmed that the “personal issues” is related to his bankrupcy.

“Personal reason lah. What (other) reason do you want? When Anwar comes (back), he can explain what had transpired between us. Until then, anyone can say whatever they want,” he said.

Jenapala not quitting party

Jenapala, who held a press conference this afternoon together with 50 PKR Indian leaders, announced that they are not leaving PKR.
“Whatever differences in opinion will be resolved within the party and they will be addressed with the PKR leadership, especially Anwar,” said Jenapala (photo, middle).

He also claimed that there were efforts to sabotage the press conference today by other Indian leaders in PKR.

Jenapala was flanked by party member Ravi Dharan, Kapar MP S Manikavasagam and Malacca PKR deputy chief S Jayathas at the press conference.

Ravi Dharan added later that the quarrel within PKR reflects the “democratic process” which exists in the party.

“We should be able to resolve our problems in the party,” he said, adding that he is confident a solution can be found.

Some Indian leaders in PKR have complained that they have not been given plumb posts in the party as well as positions in the various state governments led by the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

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Pakatan leaders call for unity and change to fight economic gloom

Posted in PKR with tags , , on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim called on Malaysians to rally behind the Pakatan Rakyat and push for reform and structural change to overcome the looming economic crisis.

In his New Year statement issued jointly with KeADILan president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the 61-year old Anwar said the opposition coalition has stood firm despite an onslaught of propaganda from the ruling Barisan Nasional that it was on the brink of a split.

“BN’s hope of seeing the Pakatan Rakyat destroyed has come to a dead end. They forget the strength of our alliance comes from the aspirations of the people who want reform and fundamental changes. It is this wish for change that has united the communities and made them rise above partisan party politics,” Anwar said.

The former deputy prime minister, who was voted among the brightest finance ministers in the region during the 1990s, urged Malaysians not to be taken in by the scare tactics of BN leaders – who have been using political instability as a bogeyman to stop the Pakatan from advancing.

“Our country is now facing a very uncertain economic future. The effects and implications are only starting to play out. The high inflation rate has caused the price of goods to rush up. There is a crisis of confidence in the security of the country, in its judiciary system. All these do not bode well for us and make it even more difficult to attract investments to stimulate our economy.

“We cannot remain in a state of denial. A leadership that shifts the burden can only lose the confidence of the people. Our economy need a leadership that is far-sighted, clear-headed and honest.

“Let me say it again, our country of various different races and communities have gone through all sorts of obstacles and difficulties together. We are certain that with reform and change –  that with our country back on the right track – we can overcome this economic challenge together,” Anwar said.

Putting the people first

Meanwhile, KeADILan information chief Tian Chua reaffirmed the party’s promise to always put the people first.

“KeADILan will not waver from its promise to care for the people and its fight to ensure that all Malaysians can live a healthy and comfortable life. We will continue to contribute our ideas and resources towards the development of the country in every way and in every aspect.

“Let us show our resolve and steadfastness in overcoming the challenges in our journey towards true democracy to ensure that the wealth of the nation flows back to its people, let us regain our dignity and pride, foster and nurture justice for all.

“Together, let us make 2009 the year where we rebuild Malaysia and regain the respect of the world,” Tian urged.

Kapar MP Mike to stay with KeADILan, meeting Anwar soon

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

SK

KeADILan leader S Manikavasagam, popularly known as Mike to his colleague, has decided to stay with party.

However, the Kapar parliamentarian will resign as Selangor KeADILan deputy liaison chairman after having recently expressed his unhappiness with other state leaders through the Barisan Nasional controlled media.

Mike is due to meet Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim some time in mid-January after paying a visit to India.

Chewed into pieces, mca wanita chief resigned from scandal-ridden Pempena

Posted in corruption with tags , , on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

Malaysiakini

MCA Wanita chief Chew Mei Fun has resigned from the Tourism Ministry’s controversy-ridden subsidiary Pempena Sdn Bhd eight months after she was picked to head the agency.

“Since I have completed the first phase of organisation restructuring, (and) before moving into a longer period of second phase of organisation revamping, I felt it is time for me to resign from Pempena as executive chairman in order to make way for the management of Tourism Malaysia, the holding company of Pempena, to move the company forward.”

Pempena – a national tourism development company set up in 1976 by Tourism Malaysia – could chalked up as much as RM50 million in losses due to a litany of bad investments, criminal breach of trust and financial improprieties.
Chew who was appointed to helm Pempena soon after she lost her Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary seat in the March 8 general elections, said her resignation would take effect today.

Allegations against Pempena first surfaced in a July 2 Malaysiakini report regarding a memorandum by Pempena staff to Tourism Minister Azalina Othman, alleging graft and breach of trust by two key figures in the company.

Among others, the allegations stated that the duo had pocketed commissions when refinancing luxury vehicles for a high-end tourist taxi service, approved several lucrative contracts to RM2 companies, overstating the cost of creating an e-tourism portal by about RM5 million, and by passing the Pempena board of directors in ‘investing’ in a restaurant project in Melbourne.

The alleged wrongdoings happened before Chew took over Pempena. Then Pempena was under another MCA politician, Deputy Home Minister Chor Chee Heung.

“During my stewardship in Pempena for the last eight months, despite facing unfair allegations and various negative publicity … I had patiently strive to resolve problems and find solutions for the company,” said Chew in press statement today.

She said that among the actions taken was the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to undertake a business review of Pempena.

Need to devote time to rebuilt MCA

In a scathing report, PWC revealed that Pempena had invested a total of RM54.5 million in 24 companies, but only four generated profits.

The report also said that Pempena invested in five non-functional companies and recommended divesting the companies which would result in a loss of approximately RM20 million.

PWC also found that the RM18.3 million of Pempena’s Executive Taxi Services (Pets) luxury taxi project has so far recorded a loss of up to RM7.8 million.

The PWC report however did not deal with a number of other allegations highlighted by Malaysiakini, such as the RM10 million e-tourism portal.

Chew said that following the PWC report, Pempena has “retain and enhance its investment in 14 investee companies and to exit from the rest of 10″.

She added that with her election as MCA Wanita chief two months ago, she is now required to devote more time to transforming and rebuilding the party.

KT By Election: Not Enough with their own Money Politic, bn shower the Voters with Electoral Bribes ~ Malaysiakini

Posted in Malaysia news with tags on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

New Year’s Day is D-day for PAS president Hadi Awang – he is due to name the Pakatan Rakyat candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election

By Wong Choon Mei

Even before nomination day on Jan 6, the mudslinging and back-stabbing has begun – heralding what can only be another intense dog-fight between arch enemies Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional as they prepare to battle tooth-and-nail for the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.

Residents of this peaceful coastal town can expect to be bombarded by hordes of politicos, who can in turn be depended on to claim sudden empathy with the 80,000-odd constituents there.

A machine-gun barrage of reasons why they – and only they – can deliver the goods will surely wrack the solitude and upset the tranquillity of this serene and religious royal state capital.

Already, largesse from the material world is being flung at their feet.

The Umno-led Barisan has been busy flashing its hefty ATM card. First off – a hazy RM10 billion sovereign wealth fund to protect the economic well-being of Terengganu, which not too long ago was among Malaysia’s poorest states despite a wealth of natural resources, like oil.

The bulk of the 10b is supposed to be raised from borrowings in both local and international markets and the interest on the debt is to be serviced from the oil royalty owed to the state by the federal government.

In a high-profile ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak recently handed over a cheque for RM400 million – leaving cynics to wonder when and if the rest of Terengganu’s oil wealth can ever trickle back to its people.

The next – laptops! Shiny, new and definitely what Malaysian youth need the most. According to a BN state official, 25,000 Year Five pupils in Terengganu will be given laptops worth about RM30 million – but this will again be in phases!

And in case Year Four, Three, Two and One pupils feel neglected, don’t worry. Plans are already afoot to set up a laptop factory in Gong Badak that can produce 10,000 units of similar notebooks for them, the official added.

A shower of gifts for the Chinese

Never one to let slip a political opportunity, the BN-led state government has been quick to cast its radar on the erstwhile and oft-forgotten Chinese community, which make up about 11 percent or some 9,000 of the voters in KT.

This is because many pundits now say it is the Chinese there who will swing the winner. With the Malays split down the line between a corruption-hit Umno and a re-energised Islamic-based PAS, the Chinese may well hold the deciding vote, they opined.

So to make sure that all fronts are covered, Najib who is also election director has agreed to loosen the purse-strings even more.

The Chinese community will get a RM3.3 million hall to be built in Bukit Kecil and RM2.8 million for upgrading the school hall of  Sekolah Menengah Chung Hwa Wei Sin.

In case that is still not enough, Terengganu menteri besar Ahmad Said says RM250,000 will be allocated to help 8,500 needy people during Chinese New Year next month.

Chinese single mothers, the destitute, disabled and elderly can expect to receive ‘ang-pows’ of between RM200 and RM400 each, he elaborates.

Have faith, money is not everything

Can KT folk hold out against such financial onslaught?

It depends, said some experts. According to them, the choice of candidate is paramount.

“Election promises come and go. Goodies have a short shelf life,” said a political watcher. “I think KT voters are much more sophisticated than the BN gives them credit for. They may be humble and god-fearing folk but they are a smart, shrewd lot. Substance – political, ideological and clean governance over the long term – is what they will go for not short term gifts.”

“PAS is not merely fighting another party but the federal government,” said Pakatan leader and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

Representing the Barisan is deputy home minister Wan Ahmad Farid – who has also been KT Umno division chief for the past two terms. The 46-year old father of six has been eager to portray a clean-living image of domestic bliss, crediting his wife as being instrumental in his career.

Wan Ahmad has also been quick to announce plans to set up a website and to hire a special officer to specially liaise with the Chinese community in KT.

“If I win, I will expand the BN’s parliamentary services centre and appoint a special officer who can speak Mandarin and Cantonese to serve the Chinese community,” he said.

Treading carefully

In the face of so much bombast, it is no wonder that PAS has chosen to tread with great caution.

Not only has Hadi insisted on naming the Pakatan candidate only on Jan 1, speculation has been rife that party elders have commissioned on-the-ground surveys to determine which of their men had the best chance of upsetting the Umno-gravy train.

Most party insiders believe either Batu Burok assemblyman Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi or state deputy commissioner Wan Mutalib Embong will be named on Thursday.

The US-educated Syed Azman, who previously attended the same college as Wan Ahmad, is regarded as having greater popular appeal because of his outgoing and more liberal demeanour.

However, Wan Mutalib is equally well-respected and holds great sway in the party, although he is more frequently associated with the conservative party hardliners.

In the previous election held in March 2008, PAS vice president Mohamad Sabu had lost to the late deputy education minister Razali Ismail by just 628 votes.

However, this time around, whoever represents PAS and the Pakatan – be it Syed Azman or Wan Mutalib or even a rank dark horse –  Hadi is confident PAS can wrest back the seat.

“The PAS candidate is more qualified,” Hadi said.

MIC meeting erupts in fight, Kluang leader kicked in jaw

Posted in Malaysia news with tags , on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

An MIC division leader has been hospitalised after being kicked in the jaw by his colleague during a party meeting that suddenly erupted into a fight.

S Thenarasoo, the Kluang division leader, was chairing a meeting to discuss party matters. There were 34 branch leaders present and one of them purportedly brought up a personal matter

According to media reports, Thenarasoo had wanted to discuss only matters on the agenda, which involved the allocation of land to certain people in the district.

Violence

But he could not control his colleagues.

Suddenly, another branch leader threw a mineral water bottle at him, while the leader who raised the matter disallowed by Thenarasoo rushed to the front, jumped onto the table and kicked him in the jaw.

The 50-year old Thenarasoo, a municipal councillor, will be hospitalised for three days. He lodged a police report before admitting himself into hospital.

“We cannot condone hooliganism. During the meeting, there were others who uttered verbal abuses at me,” said Thenarasoo, who has filed a complaint with the state MIC headquarters, urging disciplinary action.

He also said he was now living in fear especially for his family, who have also lodged a police report.

UBS predicts economic growth will drop drastically from 5.4% in 2008 to 0% in 2009 ~ Malaysiakini

Posted in economy with tags on December 31, 2008 by ckchew

Asia Times Online

By Shawn W Crispin

BANGKOK – With falling exports, declining confidence and tight liquidity squeezed by fleeing foreign capital, Southeast Asia has wholly failed to decouple from the mounting downturns in the United States and Europe. Looking ahead to 2009, the question is not if, but rather how far, the trade-geared economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members will fall in line with the global economy.

As global trade collapses, some of ASEAN’s 10 members will be hit harder than others, economists predict. The region’s most open economies, namely Singapore and Malaysia, where merchandise exports respectively represent around 200% and 100% of gross domestic product (GDP), will be particularly hard hit. Others including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, where exports represent a smaller, but still substantial, percentage of GDP will also see declining growth.

Hopes that China – with which ASEAN has a trade surplus driven by exports of raw materials and component electronics and computer parts for re-export to third countries – might buoy the region’s economies have faltered with recent softening in China’s export figures. Meanwhile, economists say that the stimulus package announced last month by China has been tailored mainly to tide over the domestic economy and Beijing has indicated no plans or extraordinary measures to lift the region’s sinking economies.

Swiss investment bank UBS said in a recent note to clients that for the first half of next year it expects China’s “appetite for FDI in the region will remain quite low” and that China “would be only a marginal positive factor for Asia and ASEAN commodity exporters in 2009”.

That analysis underscores now prescient Credit Suisse quantitative research from November 2007, which demonstrated that recent strong growth in ASEAN exports to China were largely intermediate goods intended for final export to now-slumping US, Europe and Japan. The same research questioned how much ASEAN had really decoupled from US demand, noting that 70% of intra-Asia trade was in intermediate goods and that more than half of China’s total imports were destined for re-export to mainly Western markets.

As such, slackening commodity demand, including from China, will impact adversely on several economies in the region. Earlier this year, certain Asian countries reaped huge profits from fast-rising global commodity prices but are now doubly exposed to deteriorating global demand and declining terms of trade. Malaysia and Indonesia, ASEAN’s top commodity exporters, are expected to take the biggest hits on this front.

Thailand, despite its position as the world’s leading exporter of rice, tapioca and raw rubber, is because of even higher oil and gas imports a net commodity importer and so less exposed to global price swings. Net fuel and food importing Philippines, which earlier this year experienced the highest local inflation rates in 17 years at 12.2%, will also net-net benefit economically from softening global commodity prices.

Policy matters
While all economies in the region are expected to fall, how hard they actually land will depend on individual governments’ policy responses. Some are better placed than others to ramp fiscal spending and slash interest rates to spark more domestic demand and locally oriented investment. How well governments devise and implement those policies will go a long way in determining the extent of individual countries’ slowdowns in 2009.

Indonesia, which faces severe budget deficit financing issues and has in recent months been hounded by rumors it may seek an International Monetary Fund rescue package, is seen as the most wobbly of the regional lot. Faced with stubbornly high inflation, current account deficits and a depreciating currency, the government’s fiscal options and Bank Indonesia’s monetary maneuverability will both be limited in their scope to stimulate economic growth.

UBS notes that around 50% of Indonesian government bonds are now owned by local banks and few wish to increase that share, as seen earlier this year when foreigners wishing to dump their local positions sold mainly to the central bank and local pension funds. Should its terms of trade decline further in 2009, some analysts fear Indonesia could be pushed into a 1997-style crisis, driven by both foreign and domestic capital flight. Barring that worst-case scenario, UBS predicts growth will fall to 3% next year, or nearly half this year’s 5.8%.

Thailand is in better shape financially but faces uncertain political risks, which took a sharp toll on the economy in 2008. Those risks were underscored when anti-government protesters besieged Bangkok’s main international airport for eight days beginning in late November. The closure caused exports – which currently represent around 65% of GDP – to fall 18.6% year-on-year in November, resulting in a US$1.3 billion loss in overseas sales, according to Commerce Ministry figures.

A new Thai government installed in December has raised hopes for stability and has already indicated plans to double the outgoing administration’s extra-budgetary spending to 200 billion baht (US$5.8 billion), including funds to prop up falling agricultural prices. Fiscal stimulus will be paired with monetary loosening, signaled by the Bank of Thailand’s drastic 100 basis point benchmark interest rate cut on December 3. While many economists predict Thai growth of around 2%, others believe the stimulus won’t prevent the economy from tilting negative in 2009.

As perhaps Asia’s most trade-dependent economy, Singapore had already slipped into recession by the third quarter of 2008, with – 0.6% year-on-year GDP growth. With global trade forecast to contract further in the quarters ahead, economists expect Singapore’s growth to remain in negative territory through 2009. Given the government’s perceived penchant for sometimes overstating growth on the upside, the actual economic situation next year could be worse than official statistics indicate.

Declining export volumes are expected to ripple adversely through the local economy, leading to significant lay-offs in the manufacturing sector and dampened consumer sentiment, including towards the crucial property sector. The government is expected to provide substantial fiscal support, including through the use of off-budget measures such as tax rebates, micro-loans and rental rebates, according to UBS.

The establishment of a US$30 billion “swap line” between the US Federal Reserve and the Monetary Authority of Singapore has alleviated earlier dollar liquidity concerns and set the stage for monetary loosening at the MAS’s next policy meeting in April. But with global trade faltering, local demand for US dollars should decline, depending, of course, on how deeply MAS cuts interest rates and whether monetary easing can spark a new investment cycle, which seems doubtful for 2009.

Malaysia will face similar if not tougher economic challenges. UBS predicts economic growth will drop drastically from 5.4% in 2008 to 0% in 2009, driven down by the double whammy of declining exports and terms of trade in line with falling global commodity prices. Commodity exports represented 26% of GDP in 2007, driving a balance of payment surplus of $13.2 billion. This year’s balance of payments is on course to just break even, and economists expect that statistic will likely turn negative in 2009.

Credit Suisse noted in the aforementioned 2007 research that for every percentage point drop in US GDP growth, Malaysia’s will fall 1.6%. That’s led some economists to contend the government has moved too timidly in using fiscal and monetary policy to offset the negative impact of collapsing exports. The perceived inaction is reflective of the government’s still bullish forecast for 3.5% economic growth next year, optimism aimed at deflecting growing criticism from a more assertive political opposition.

For all the bad news, there is some upside – at least for the brave of heart. ASEAN stock markets collapsed across the board in 2008, with many losing around half their market capitalization year-on-year due to foreign investor flight. That’s driven average share prices down to near 20-25 year lows on price-to-book valuations and exceptionally low price-to-equity ratios of around 8.6 times earnings, according to UBS. For those with the liquidity and patience beyond 2009, the region’s battered, yet comparatively deleveraged equities are trading at bargain basement prices.

Shawn W Crispin is Asia Times Online’s Southeast Asia Editor. He may be reached at swcrispin@atimes.com.